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‘We have a ton of bright spots’: The CEO of America’s largest insurer says employers are innovating to help keep their staff healthy

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  • Employers pay for the healthcare of more than half of the non-elderly population in the US, and as healthcare costs go up, it's putting them in a tough spot. 
  • But having employers involved in healthcare isn't the worst thing, Cigna CEO David Cordani told Business Insider. 
  • "An employer actually has a vested interest in helping to keep their employees healthy, and productive, and present from a work standpoint," he said. 

America's healthcare system has a lot of quirks. 

One of its biggest: its reliance on employers to cover health insurance as a benefit. 

More than half of the non-elderly population is covered by an employer-sponsored plan, and almost 80% of large companies are self-insured .

Employers have a long history of covering healthcare for their employees dating back to World War II, as a way to convince people to work for factories that were ramping up production during the war economy.

But as healthcare costs have gone up, employers are the ones feeling the pressure. And some are starting to get fed up, prompting some of America's biggest companies including Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, and JPMorgan to start to do something about it. It's even led some to question the role employers play in healthcare altogether. 

Cigna, one of the largest health insurers in the US, works with employers to provide health plans for their employees. In a recent interview, Business Insider's Sara Silverstein asked Cigna CEO David Cordani if it still makes sense for healthcare to be tied to employers. 

"An employer actually has a vested interest in helping to keep their employees healthy, and productive, and present from a work standpoint," Cordani said.

To be sure, a big portion of Cordani's business comes from employers who in turn provide Cigna plans to their employees. If employer-funded healthcare stopped being the norm in the US, that would mean individuals and families would have to find and pay for health insurance on their own or through a government program. 

But employers have a way to engage and communicate with people about healthcare, and provide care, meeting them where they spend a big chunk of their time, he said.

"We have a ton of bright spots where we could point to employers that have innovated with us and we've innovated with them," Cordani said. "And their employees and therefore their business is better off and those employees family members are better off because they're getting better, more comprehensive healthcare."

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