- The National Business Group on Health has culled data from its annual Large Employer Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey to reveal what's new for open enrollment for the coming season. Overall, few business are adopting any major changes to plan design, but many are reporting continued efforts to raise the level of quality of coverage, offer more plan options and provide access to mental health services as well as telehealth options.
- Top trends identified in the survey begin with modest cost increases. Employers can expect to see the total cost of health benefits covering employees and dependents increase by 5% this coming year. Businesses will cover about 70% of the overall cost of benefits. Additionally, advanced virtual care options are on the rise. Eighty-two percent of employers are expanding into virtual mental health services. Another 60% will offer virtual weight management programs. Services showing the greatest potential for growth in the coming years are digital options for musculoskeletal care management, prenatal and cardiac care, sleep and diabetes management, as well as others.
- To assist workers with mind as well as body, one third of employers will offer onsite mental health counselors and 28% will provide digital cognitive behavioral therapy for mental health issues. Nearly half will provide training for managers to help them recognize mental health issues and guide workers to resources.
A survey from Mercer published last month also projected a rise in health benefit costs. According to the 1,511 employers polled by Mercer, 43% said they plan to raise deductibles or cut benefits to keep costs down in 2020. That means many employers plan to absorb the extra expenses, likely for good reason: Good health benefits convince workers to stay at their organizations. In fact, employers that offer at least six benefit plan types will see a 138% decrease in turnover according to a Paycor report released this summer. In this tight employment market, employers can encourage workers to stay by offering competitive health benefits.
Employers that decide to explore adding new benefits options may want to consider how their employees are using what they already have access to. For example, more employers provide financial wellness benefits, but an increase in usage rates has not followed, according to a report from Bank of America. The report showed this confusion extended to other benefits, as well. Eighty-eight of employers said they offered some form of caregiver benefit, but 71% of employees said they don't know what's available to them. Only a third have used resources provided by their employer. As employers expand their benefits coverage, they may want to increase employee education about these additions so usage rates rise, as well.