A Watson Wyatt news release said companies recognize that having a healthy workforce can help control rising health care costs and increase worker productivity.
A forthcoming survey by Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) shows that 46% of employers currently offer economic incentives and another 26% plan to do so in 2008. A few companies take the opposite approach and penalize workers for unhealthy choices, such as smoking, by charging them higher premiums, Watson Wyatt said.
“Open enrollment is a much more active process than
it was just a few years ago,” said Ted Nussbaum, North
America director of group and health care consulting at
Watson Wyatt, in the news release. “With some employers
making significant changes to their benefit offerings,
employees will need to pay closer attention to their
options than ever before. And that will require time to
ensure they receive the benefits they want for next
According to the announcement, other enrollment trends include:
- Full coverage for preventive care benefits. More employers are covering preventive medical care and even preventive drugs at 100% and not subjecting these to a deductible. Often included in these fully paid benefits are vaccinations, exams and screenings for early diagnosis of and intervention in breast, colon and cervical cancer.
- Health coaches/onsite health centers. A growing number of employers offer workers access to health coaches and advocates. These experts provide individualized advice to workers on personal health care needs and can educate workers about best care and what questions to ask their health care providers.
- More choice to meet individual needs. Some of these options are voluntary benefits, such as homeowners, automobile and group life insurance and discounts on vision and dental care, massage therapy, chiropractic care, weight-management programs and fitness club memberships.
- More communication/more tools. Employers are enhancing their communication with workers and providing online tools to help them evaluate and estimate their health care expenses and needs and manage their personal health care.
- More health savings accounts/fewer plan options. Employer interest in consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) with health savings accounts (HSA) continues to grow. Watson Wyatt research shows that 40% of companies will offer workers an HSA next year. At the same time, to reduce administrative costs, employers are cutting back on the number of health plan options they will offer workers.
- Scrutiny of spousal/dependent coverage. Companies are paying closer attention to workers who enroll their spouses and dependents in their health benefits. Some companies require employees to pay higher premiums for spousal coverage when their spouse is eligible for other health care coverage.