Do you know what most employers say their top priority is over the next two years?
We’ll give you a hint. If you’re a Benefits pro, it’s in your wheelhouse.
If you said managing healthcare benefits costs, ding, ding, ding, you’re a winner! (And your prize is our respect for your insightful answer.)
Ninety-four percent of employers gave healthcare benefits costs as their No. 1 priority. And coming in second place for 87% of them is enhancing mental health benefits.
That’s according to 2022 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey by WTW, a global advisory, broking and solutions company.
Employers aren’t waiting around for healthcare costs to decrease because that’s not happening any time soon. Instead, they’re taking it upon themselves to find ways to make benefits more affordable. One way to do that, increase employees’ awareness of the benefits offered and how best to access them.
“Many employers find themselves in the middle of a perfect storm,” said Lindsay Hunter, senior director, Health and Benefits, WTW. “Inflation and rising healthcare costs, ongoing emotional and physical wellbeing needs, and attraction and retention challenges caused by a tight labor market are driving employers to carefully evaluate their benefit programs and strategies. In particular, they are looking for ways to make healthcare more affordable for themselves and their employees.”
Mental health isn’t going anywhere
Returning to the office is happening a little at a time. And while some companies are back to the office full time, most aren’t. Many have found a hybrid workforce works for them, and in some cases saves money. However, employees’ mental health took a big hit over the past two years, and it’s not going to snap back all at once.
That’s why 66% of 636 employers who responded to the survey said making sure remote workers’ health and well-being are supported through quality programs is a key priority of their healthcare strategy in the immediate and not-too-distant future. Sixty-two percent said they will enhance programs and well-being activities that focus on health issues of employees’ family members as well.
What’s the biggest challenge employers are facing?
To deliver on their promises over the next two year due to increasing healthcare prices from rising inflation and provider consolidation, said 73% of the respondents. Fifty-four percent cited a lack of employee awareness about where to find programs to fulfill their needs as their key challenge.
So how do employers plan to make employee healthcare more affordable?
Fifty-five percent said their plan is to improve quality and outcomes to lower overall cost. Adding or enhancing low- or no-cost coverage for specific benefits is the plan for 41%. And 32% will be making changes to employees’ out-of-pocket costs, while 21% said they’ll alter their health plan payroll contributions.
Of course, employers will be relying on virtual care as a large piece of their “lowering healthcare cost plan” puzzle.
Even as we emerge from the pandemic, virtual care isn’t going anywhere.
Most employers (95%) said they’ll be offering virtual care for medical and behavioral health issues by the end of 2023. Sixty-one percent expect to offer lower cost sharing for virtual care. And 55% said they believe upping their virtual care game will help decrease costs in the long run, and another 50% think it’ll improve outcomes.
Lastly, the survey revealed something interesting: Employer interest in genomics benefits is increasing as testing options and treatments advance. This would help lower healthcare costs for employers because their employees would be getting earlier diagnoses and treatments.