Benefits Survey Reveals the Big Four Emerging Health Care Trends

A Recent Health Benefits Survey Indicates the Top Concerns for Employers

Health Care Benefits Trends
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What’s in the cards for employee benefits? With much of the Affordable Care Act requirements solidified, the future of benefits administration includes cost savings measures coupled with actions that will increase plan participation and technology. In fact, the Towers and Watson 2015 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey indicated that in order to “achieve and sustain high-performance health care programs”, employers are actively turning to the following strategies now.

Managing Health Care Benefit Costs

It should not come as a surprise that the Towers Watson survey results indicate that employers are very concerned with the increasing costs of providing health care benefits to their workforce. Employers are evaluating benchmark data so they can compare their coverage to that of their competitors, and they are taking steps to prepare for excise tax implications.

Respondents stated that:

  • 61 percent will adopt high-performance formulary to limit certain brand name prescription medications
  • 35 percent expect to hit the excise tax by 2018
  • 32 percent use spousal-surcharges and this amount is expected to double in the next three years

Adding Value to Employee Benefits

Another critical area that employers are focused on, as indicated in the Towers Watson survey, is that of adding value to the ACA compliant employee benefit programs that they are offering. Whether this is the perception of value by employees, or the trend towards increasing plan values by including a wider array of unique and voluntary benefits for employees to choose from, employers are looking for more bang for their buck.

Telemedicine, video medical support, and nurse hotlines are growing in popularity, especially for employees with high deductible health care plans.

Survey respondents shared that:

  • 80 percent or more may offer telemedicine services by 2018
  • 64 percent exclusively use data and metrics for measuring plan performance
  • Over the next three years, narrow networks and centers of excellence will triple in use

Increasing Employee Engagement

It’s one thing to offer low cost employee benefits and health care support to employees; it’s another to get them to make use of these perks. In the coming years, employers will become even more focused on increasing employee engagement. The survey indicated that this will involve a deeper interest in developing employee engagement strategies and evaluating health benefit vendors for their ability to handle the demands of benefit administration.

Responders of the survey said that:

  • 66 percent will be working on providing a healthy workplace culture
  • 60 percent are using wellness portals and apps to deliver health information (95 percent will be doing this by 2018)
  • 49 percent are already offering account based health plans and hope to replace other methods soon
  • 43 percent are working towards making benefits prices and quality more transparent

Exploring New Options in Health Care

When it comes to employee benefits administration, benefits technology leads the way towards more education and cost management.

While the use of mobile apps is on the rise, there are other newer options that employers are focusing on bringing into the mix. Chief concerns are controlling costs and simplifying administration for employees who are using private health exchanges. This is also a product of a large number of Baby Boomers who are working longer, but are qualifying for Medicare benefits too.

Survey respondents indicated that:

  • 78 percent are either using or are considering using private Medicare exchanges to help retirees handle their individual plan needs
  • 37 percent are growing in confidence of the use of private health care exchanges for all other employees
  • 31 percent plan to contract directly with physicians, health care clinics, and accountable care organizations to provide care

This is an interesting glimpse into what is on the minds of many employee benefit administrators going into the remaining years ahead. We will continue to keep on top of updates in these areas.

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