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5 Trends Reshaping Employee Healthcare Benefits

Published about 2 years ago • 5 min read

As employers grapple with the effects of the Great Resignation, many have had to revisit one key area of their benefits package: their healthcare offering. That’s because not only are employees more focused on their well-being than ever before, but they’re also in the driver’s seat right now. In fact, over 4.5 million people quit their jobs in March — up from 4.3 million in February — and these numbers show no signs of slowing down.

Of course, there are many factors organizations should consider if they want to succeed in the ongoing war for talent. However, offering better healthcare benefits can play a key role in attracting and retaining employees. Today’s workers want to work for companies that will truly support their holistic well-being and the health of their families, and they won’t settle for anything less.

Fortunately, there’s a lot that businesses can do to improve the healthcare experience for employees and their families. The most forward-thinking companies are tackling this from multiple angles while still keeping costs in mind — no easy feat! But it’s an effort worth making, since 80% of employees say that having an employer who cares about their health and well-being will affect their future career choice.

To learn more about the trends reshaping employer-sponsored healthcare, I interviewed five HR and benefits professionals in collaboration with One Medical, a membership-based primary care practice. In today’s article I’ll provide a snapshot of their insights — be sure to access their full paper, Building Better and Sustainable Healthcare Benefits, for a more comprehensive discussion of this topic.

Trend #1: Increased need for healthcare navigation tools

More than half of U.S. consumers do not understand how to navigate the current healthcare landscape because it is so complex. Meanwhile, 35% of all U.S. employees admit they don’t fully understand their company’s health benefits. The outcome of this is that many workers don’t even engage with programs they qualify for, and their health could be suffering as a result.

But today’s employees are increasingly focused on their well-being, especially amidst the ongoing pandemic. More and more workers want to make use of their healthcare benefits, and they’re demanding that their employers support their ability to do so. That’s why one key trend we’re seeing involves helping employees navigate their healthcare decisions.

RE/MAX, a real estate franchise company, is leading the charge on this by offering its employees a healthcare navigation benefit. “They can help people find doctors, help them interpret the things that they're getting, help them appeal claims, etc. And RE/MAX pays for that. It’s a great service,” said Laila Hebert, Vice President of HR Operations.

Trend #2: Growing emphasis on primary care

A large body of research shows a clear relationship between primary care and improved health outcomes. It’s estimated that adding just one additional primary care physician per 10,000 people — a 12.6% increase over the current supply — would avert as many as 127,617 deaths per year in the United States.

While this may be common knowledge among healthcare practitioners, there’s also a growing awareness about the benefits of primary care among the general population. For example, a study by One Medical found that 80% of employees and 89% of HR leaders believe it’s important to see a primary care provider on a regular basis.

It’s no surprise, then, that more and more companies are promoting primary care usage among their workforce. One such company is AECOM, a global infrastructure firm. “The primary care provider is really your entry into the healthcare marketplace that knows you better than others,” said Bernie Knobbe, Head of Global Benefits and Wellbeing. “They are the ones that really manage your healthcare overall.”

Trend #3: Streamlining benefits to maximize value

Healthcare is undoubtedly one of the most expensive benefits that employers can offer. The premiums for families and individuals have increased 22% over the last five years, and employers expect health care costs to rise another 4.7% in 2022. And while that’s in line with the historical rate of change, it’s still a large number.

With these costs in mind, it’s critical that organizations invest in programs that drive real value for their employees. “There’s an opportunity right now to think about these innovative, disruptive benefits that are being presented and are becoming more readily available in the market, and how to provide those to our employees as a differentiator,” explained Emily Forrester, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Workiva.

She emphasized that Workiva, a global SaaS company, takes a quality over quantity approach. “We try to choose one provider per type of benefit so that we can really hone in on the relationship with that provider and maximize the heck out of [them],” said Forrester.

Trend #4: Elevated demand for virtual care offerings

The use of virtual care exploded during the pandemic — for good reason, of course. But what’s surprising is that many people are continuing to seek out digital care options, even though COVID-19 rates have leveled off in some areas. In fact, research from McKinsey reveals that telehealth utilization has stabilized at levels 38X higher than before the pandemic!

That’s partly because people have come to recognize that not only is virtual care convenient, it’s also just as high-quality as the care they would receive in-person. For organizations, meanwhile, telehealth offerings are a key way to support remote or hybrid workforces and ensure that every employee gets the care they need, regardless of their location.

Beth Server, Head of Benefits and Wellness at BMO, the eighth largest bank in North America, shared how her company has embraced this trend. “We’ve been introducing virtual care options, digitizing our processes, and making sure employees have access to the apps that are available through our healthcare providers,” she explained.

Trend #5: Ongoing expectations for mental health support

Today’s employees are struggling with their mental health more than ever before, but they don’t always get the support they need from their employers. In fact, research from McKinsey reveals that less than 2 out of 3 leaders (and just 51% of employees) believe their companies are adequately supporting people’s mental health needs.

Fortunately, some organizations are finally starting to catch up. PwC found that 53% of employers added mental health programs in response to COVID-19, while 44% added or expanded wellness programs. There’s still a long way to go here, but all of the leaders I spoke with affirmed that their companies will put an increased focus on mental health in the coming year.

John Rocco, Senior Director of Total Rewards at Worldwide Technology (WWT), a technology solutions company, emphasized that this will be especially critical amidst the ongoing Great Resignation. “I think this is going to be a differentiator for companies as we continue to recruit and retain in this hot market,” Rocco shared.

A new vision for employee healthcare

If your company is struggling with a talent shortage, then reevaluating your healthcare offering could be a smart move. For most organizations this benefits area is ripe for change, and there are an abundance of solutions and tools on the market that can enhance people’s care experience and outcomes. In fact, improving your healthcare benefits is one of the best ways your organization can show that you truly care about employees and their families — and it’s what today’s workers expect.

Thanks for reading — for a more comprehensive discussion of this topic, download One Medical's report, Building Better and Sustainable Healthcare Benefits. And be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know whether your company is seeing these trends!

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