Health Reform Boosting Adoption of Wellness Programs, HDHPs

Employer offerings of high deductible health plans surpassed health maintenance organizations in 2014.

The latest research from the Healthcare Trends Institute finds on average about 50% of the group health care market is covered under a preferred provider organization (PPO) type arrangement. But while large companies are still offering benefit-rich insurance, this may dwindle as companies begin to contemplate the 2018 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) excise tax provision.

The 2014 Healthcare Benefits Trends study reveals the offering of high deductible health plans (HDHPs) surpassed that of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in 2014, at 30.8%. Health savings accounts (HSAs) are offered by 21.7% of employers.

Respondents indicated some effects of health care reform on their employee benefits packages have been increased cost-sharing (33.8%) and increased premium contributions (31.9%). Nearly 9% introduced HDHPs to their health benefits lineup in 2014. However, the biggest effect on health benefits offerings has been the adoption of wellness or preventive health programs (37.6%), and enhancement of already existing programs (14.8%).

Nearly half (48.2%) of the survey respondents said they are somewhat to very concerned about the impending 2018 excise tax on high cost health plans under the ACA. In order to not be penalized, 30.4% of respondent companies indicated they are moving to a high deductible health plan; however, the same percentage is not taking action quite yet.

According to the survey report, 29.8% of respondents reported using some kind of healthy lifestyle incentive, 36.2% are still learning about incentives, and 17.4% are considering adding them in the future. More than half (52.5%) of companies are using at least one wellness initiative, 28.7% give employees the opportunity to complete a health risk assessment, and 22.2% offer biometric screening.

The majority of respondents (58.8%) indicated health benefits offerings are important to very important for improving employee morale and satisfaction. In addition, more than half of respondents indicated health benefits are important to very important for retaining and attracting quality employees (54.7%) and improving employee health, reducing absenteeism and improving productivity (54.3%).

The Healthcare Trends Institute polled more than 250 human resource (HR) executives, benefits managers and benefits decisionmakers in September through November 2014, from companies of a variety of sizes and industries.

The 2014 Healthcare Benefits Trends study report can be downloaded from here.