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For years, employers have had to deal with the rising cost of offering insurance plans to their employees. Some have responded by cutting back on what those plans will cover. Others have simply worked the costs into their budgets. But neither strategy may be sustainable for much longer—the Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 2012, the average family insurance plan offered by a large company cost $15,745.

Recently, the New York Times found that some companies are experimenting with a new strategy for holding down costs. It's called "reference pricing," and it requires employers to determine the average price of a service.

Rather than continue to accept price increases, these companies then decide to pay a fixed amount for individual tests and procedures, and not a dollar more. 

For example, the news source reported that a plan for public employees in California is giving members the choice between 54 hospitals that charge no more than $30,000 for a hip or knee replacement. While other hospitals in the state have been known to charge up to $110,000 for such procedures, the plan includes an important caveat: any charges above the amount agreed to will be borne by the employees themselves. 

James C. Robinson, a health economist at the University of California, Berkeley, told the news source that the plan could save $5.5 million in the first two years. At the same time, the article cited studies by WellPoint, which found that there has been no impact on quality of care.

Though adoption of this strategy has been slow so far, it shows that some companies are willing to experiment in their efforts to cut back on healthcare spending. A healthcare consulting firm could play a large role in helping them reach their goal.