- Mercer's latest national survey of employer-sponsored health plans highlights three important areas of focus for employers in 2019: balancing affordability and choice, including cost-shifting considerations; empowering employees to improve their health through tech-enabled solutions that address specific health needs; and addressing high-cost claims to achieve better outcomes for less money.
- According to the survey of nearly 2,600 employers, the average total health benefit cost per employee rose 3% to $13,046 in 2019; last year saw a 3.6% increase. While Mercer reports that this is the eighth consecutive year of health benefit cost growth in the low single digits, with a similar increase expected next year, healthcare costs continue to outpace inflation. For this reason, employers remain extremely focused on managing the cost of health benefits.
- Forty-two percent of surveyed large and midsize employers (500 or more employees) said "addressing healthcare affordability for low-paid employees" was an important or very important strategy. The majority of this group did not increase the amount members were required to pay out-of-pocket in 2019. Additionally, some larger employers that had previously offered only a high-deductible plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA) added new PPO or HMO options to give employees greater choice.
Employers are always searching for new ways to provide attractive health and wellness offerings while keeping costs down. Some big companies are moving into an activist role to improve American healthcare more generally and have been trying out new payment and delivery models, including accountable care organizations and performance networks.
For smaller employers, one top method for controlling healthcare costs is case management services that flag possible hurdles to employees receiving appropriate care; these were used by over 70% of employers surveyed recently by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Popular strategies offered by employers of all sizes include telemedicine.
Many workers give weight to an employer's health and wellness programs when deciding where to work, according to recent OfficeTeam research, and many workers would leave their current job for another position that offers better overall benefits. Although most employers offer a fairly standard slate of benefits, personalized wellness programs, in conjunction with certain non-cash incentives like paid time off, would motivate four-fifths of employees to be more engaged, according to a Welltok report.
The most recent Society for Human Resource Management annual benefit survey found that that one-fifth of employers boosted their wellness and health-related benefits in 2019. Of the nearly 3,000 HR professionals surveyed, most view healthcare benefits as most important to workers.