Throughout 2016, organizations remained committed to providing a standard suite of health benefits, according to the Healthcare Trends Institute’s fourth annual Benefits Benchmark Survey.
Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans were the most offered health coverage option at 70%. Employers have begun to make the switch to high deductible health plans (HDHPs) (53%) with health savings accounts (HSAs) (59%) and away from Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) (37%).
Growth in account-based plans is increasing. These plans typically offer the greatest savings and are the lowest-cost option for employees in terms of their paycheck deduction. Surveyed employers reported that slightly more than 50% of their employees are enrolled in an HSA, health reimbursement account (HRA) or flexible spending account (FSA) in 2016. As HDHP growth continues it should be expected that participation in account-based options does as well.
As they look to transform the inevitable cost curve ahead, the top three solutions offered by organizations are to increase employee cost sharing (20%), increase employee health care engagement (22%) and enhance efforts related to wellness and health management programs (18%) to control future health care costs.
In a defined contribution plan (DCP) employers give employees a set amount of money to purchase the benefits of their choice. DCPs remain a relatively new concept for active employees, the Healthcare Trends Institute notes. The survey found 36% of employers reporting some uncertainty about this approach. Of those employers familiar with DCPs they believe they can help employees understand the value of their benefits (27%) and make more cost-conscious benefit decisions (24%).
According to the Healthcare Trends Institute, current nationwide benefit surveys report about 12% of employers are using DCPs and 36% are considering it for 2017. The approach encourages employees to “benefit right-size” by often implementing robust decision support tools that can ease the transition to HDHPs or high performing network plans.NEXT: The need for decision support and wellness programs
Employers overwhelmingly recognize (69%) that a well-executed benefits strategy must have plan and cost comparison tools to help engage and educate employees. Ease of use for employees is also important, so tools like online access (58%) and mobile applications (40%) are desired to ensure successful benefit enrollment and participation, the survey found.
Companies have had to rethink their benefit offerings to save on costs while providing coverage that helps create greater employee involvement. Wellness (37%) and mental health programs (38%) continue to be of importance to workforce management. Employers may move toward contributing to HSAs to encourage participation and ease an employee’s transition to the consumer directed health plan environment, the Healthcare Trends Institute speculates.
Keeping health care costs in check for employees remains a priority for employers (29%) as they’ve considered their benefit offerings over the past couple of years. As they’ve looked toward new approaches of employee empowerment, at least one-quarter of organizations have begun to invest in employee education (25%) and healthy/wellness incentives (27%). Organizations looking to make employees their own best care managers, understand it requires creating an informed health care shopper and providing an environment that guides positive employee behavior and promotes engagement.
The national survey went to more than 250 human resources executives, benefit specialists and other benefit decision makers from organizations ranging in employee size from less than 50 to over 2,500.The 2016 Healthcare Benefits Benchmark Survey is available for download here.