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U.S. Employers Eye Provider Networks Amid Looming Medical Cost Pressures, Aon Reports

High-deductible consumer-driven health plans make way for steering members to value-led care

CHICAGO, April 5, 2023 Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm, today released findings showing more U.S. employers are looking to steer employees to affordable, quality care options as a way to combat rising medical costs and improve health outcomes.

Aon’s 2022 Health Care Survey outlines employer priorities in health and benefits strategies and shows how they are responding to looming health care inflation, which Aon forecasts to rise 6.5% this year to more than $13,800 per employee on average.

Data show employers are eager to steer participants toward high-quality, cost-effective hospitals and physicians using a combination of narrow network strategies, plan design, provider guidance services and financial incentives. Thirty-seven percent of employers said they were interested in using plan design to steer members to optimal providers, while 35% already have these plan design features in place.

This emphasis comes as most employers (71%) already offer high-deductable health plans (HDHP) as a choice during benefits enrollment. With just 10% interested in adding HDHPs, few employers can wring additional savings through the traditional combination of high deductibles, savings accounts and consumer tools.

“Health care costs are rising, accessing health care services and benefits for insured employees are on the brink of unaffordability, and employers must continue to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market,” said Farheen Dam, Aon's North America Health Solutions leader. “Employers must seize opportunities to drive higher efficiency and better outcomes. High performance networks, low co-pay options for virtual care, and chronic care management programs and technologies are all options employers are exploring for their workforce.”

The survey also highlights other ways employers are adapting health and benefits packages, including:

  • Integrating comorbid support for individuals with complex and chronic health conditions (33% are interested in adding it and 35% offer it today) and integrating mental health services into condition management support (37% interested in adding and 36% offer it today).
  • Digital health apps for chronic conditions (37% interested in adding and 33% offer it today), virtual physical therapy (37% interested in adding and 33% offer it today) and virtual reproductive care (40% interested in adding and 18% offer it today).
  • Adding voluntary benefits (29% interested in adding and 49% offer it today) such as insurance policies for critical illness, accident, hospital indemnity and life, as well as student loan assistance programs, identity theft protection, legal benefits, pet care and auto/home protections.
  • Approaches to abortion access as regulations become state law. Of those surveyed, 64% follow the insurance carrier’s standard policy, 29% include abortion in a broader travel benefit through the health plan to provide financial assistance to obtain care in a state where it remains legal, 10% have removed abortion coverage in accordance with state law, 9% offer abortion-specific financial assistance through the health plan to obtain care in a different state and 2% offer abortion-specific financial assistance to help with travel to and lodging in another state that is separate from the health plan.

Employers are also eager to expand perks that offer more inclusive support for a wider range of employee needs, including:

  • Supporting all paths to parenthood through elective fertility and preservation services as well as support for adoption and surrogacy (38% interested in adding and 37% offer it today).
  • Adding paid time off to support alternative family structures (35% interested in adding and 36% offer it today).
  • Navigation support to find culturally competant medical professionals for LGBTQ+ (43% interested in adding and 19% offer it today) and people of color (46% interested in adding and 12% offer it today).
  • Benefits to help employees weather high inflation (36% interested in adding and 47% offer it today), such as financial wellbeing tools, discount platforms and emergency savings accounts.

“Employers must accelerate innovation and evolve their health and benefits programs to build a more resilient workforce,” said Janet Faircloth, senior vice president of Health Solutions for Aon. “Employers have the unique opportunity to make better decisions that enhance the value of their benefits to better meet the career, financial and health goals of a wider spectrum of employees and improve the lives of millions of people in the process.”

For more information and to read the whole study, visit  

Aon’s Client Insight team conducted an online survey to measure perceptions among 248 U.S. health and benefits leaders during November 2022. All respondents were either existing or former clients of Aon.

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE: AON) exists to shape decisions for the better — to protect and enrich the lives of people around the world. Our colleagues provide our clients in over 120 countries and sovereignties with advice and solutions that give them the clarity and confidence to make better decisions to protect and grow their business. 

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