Employers’ Top 5 Healthcare Plan Priorities for 2023
As leaders look ahead to the rest of 2023 and beyond, many are contemplating how to improve their benefits package. One area that’s getting a lot of attention is healthcare — and for good reason. Research from SHRM finds that employees value their healthcare benefits the most, ranking them as more important than other key benefits like retirement, leave, family care, flexible work arrangements, and professional development.
This is good news for employers too, since a well-designed healthcare plan can deliver significant value to the organization. One study estimates that companies who provided notable health benefits to their workers in 2022 achieved a 47% return on their investment, through factors like higher productivity, lower medical costs, and reduced spending on recruitment and retention.
However, amidst a challenging labor market, it’s not enough for employers to deliver the bare minimum when it comes to their healthcare offering. Employee expectations have shifted dramatically as a result of the pandemic, and today’s workers are looking for better benefits as well as more holistic support for their well-being. For example, virtual health care, mental health support, and family planning benefits have all increased in importance over the past few years.
But while offering more innovative benefits is crucial, companies can’t ignore the fact that both healthcare costs and employee premiums are continuing to rise. Many are addressing these cost issues by focusing on delivering the best care outcomes possible, encouraging employees to take charge of their health, putting preventive care front-and-center, and relying on data analytics to support their decision-making.
To learn more about these trends and challenges, I collaborated with Embright, a clinically integrated network (CIN) that connects healthcare purchasers and providers in the design and delivery of healthcare, to interview four HR and benefits leaders:
- Jackie Knox, Human Resources Director at Oak Harbor Freight Lines
- Wade Larson, Chief Human Resources Officer at Wagstaff
- Maria Parsons, U.S. Benefits Administrator at PATH
- Ana Armas-Rullan, Senior Human Resources Director at Red Dot Corporation
In these conversations, the leaders shared their top 5 healthcare benefit plan priorities for 2023 and why partnering with the right healthcare solutions providers will be key to achieving their goals. In today’s article I’ll provide a snapshot of their insights — be sure to download Embright’s full report, Healthcare Benefit Plan Priorities for 2023, for a more comprehensive discussion of this topic.
Priority #1: Keeping healthcare costs affordable
With healthcare costs expected to increase by 6.5% in 2023, it’s not surprising that all four leaders noted the importance of keeping costs reasonable. However, this shouldn’t come at the expense of quality, since offering best-in-class benefits helps keep workers healthy and reduces costs for employers.
Larson described how the link between employee well-being and healthcare costs informs his company’s priorities. “Our number one priority is to improve the health of our employees and their families. Number two is to save employees money on healthcare. And number three is to save the company money. We believe if we can achieve numbers one and two, number three is just going to happen.”
Priority #2: Enhancing benefits programs
Savvy employers recognize that it’s important to update your benefits programs to match the evolving needs of employees. Not only does this make your benefits more appealing (and your company more attractive), but it can also improve care outcomes for your workforce. Examples of innovative benefits include family-friendly benefits, virtual care, and behavioral health care.
Parsons shared that her company added fertility benefits to their medical plans last year. “This year, we likely will do some sort of DE&I initiative, whether that be adoption or maybe surrogacy, or we might increase our paid parental leave a little more,” she said.
Priority #3: Engaging employees in their healthcare
Getting workers to take charge of their well-being isn’t easy, and one of the biggest barriers is a lack of awareness around their benefits. In fact, 49% of employees don’t understand their benefits and 80% never open benefits communications, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
Knox emphasized that companies may need to try a lot of different methods to reach their employees. “We use in-person meetings, electronic communication boards, an electronic newsletter, and even a print newsletter. We've even tried mailing things home.”
Priority #4: Elevating the importance of preventive care
Preventive care is widely known to reduce the risk of diseases and disabilities and decrease mortality. However, many employees don’t have a primary care provider and they may turn to alternative forms of care, which winds up costing more for them and their employers.
“A lot of our team members were accustomed to using the emergency room as their primary care,” said Armas-Rullan. “This costs more out-of-pocket for them, and it also costs a lot more for us. If they were to just see a regular physician or primary care provider, that appointment would be 100% covered.”
Priority #5: Using data analytics to drive decision-making
In order to improve healthcare and the patient experience, data integration is key. Without it, medical professionals and the teams that support them are flying blind and unaware of opportunities to improve care delivery.
“Reviewing all of our data — our claims, common medications, and what costs us a lot of money — helps us plan for what's coming,” explained Armas-Rullan. “For example, it allows us to determine if a person may have a high claim coming. It also helps up formulate what types of health education we should consider offering to our employees.”
A new vision for employee healthcare
To achieve these five priorities, the leaders I spoke with said their companies are relying heavily on their healthcare solution partners for support. Some of the most valuable features they look for in a partner include mindfulness around costs, easy integration with existing benefits platforms, control over plan design, and adequate healthcare coverage.
As Larson aptly shared, this last item is the most important factor you should consider. “If you can't take care of the actual healthcare needs of your people, they won't be healthy, they won't come to work, and it's going to cost you a lot more. If not on the medical side, it's going to cost you on production, turnover, absenteeism, and morale.”
This is wise advice that all employers should heed as they think about “what’s next” for their healthcare benefit plans. Not only is supporting employee well-being the right thing to do, but the success of your business could depend on it.
Thanks for reading — be sure to download Embright’s full report, Healthcare Benefit Plan Priorities for 2023, and don’t forget to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic.