By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
In the coming weeks, millions of employees and their families will be making important decisions about their health care and other employee benefits for 2020. The National Business Group on Health (NBGH), using data from its annual Large Employer Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, has unveiled six trends employees can expect to see in their open enrollment packages.
“This year’s open enrollment season brings good news for most employees,” said Brian Marcotte, NBGH president and CEO. “While most large employers are not planning major changes to their plan design, they continue to increase efforts to improve quality, access and convenience by providing workers more plan choices and greater access to virtual care solutions and mental health services. Additionally, more employers are providing decision-support tools and technology to simplify their employees’ experience and help them navigate the health care system.”
The six trends the NBGH identified for open enrollment are:
- Modest cost increases: Large employers expect the total cost of health benefits covering employees and their dependents to rise by 5 percent in 2020, to an average of $15,375, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Still, these increases are larger than wage growth and overall economic growth. Most large employers will continue to cover almost 70 percent of the costs, NBGH found.
- More health plan choices: Many large employers had been reducing the number of plan choices over the past few years, moving employees into high-deductible plans (HDHP) that can be paired with a health savings account. In 2018, 39 percent of the employers only offered HDHPs. Next year, only 25 percent will offer HDHPs as their only option.
- Additional virtual care options: Most employers will provide employees with additional virtual care services beyond those traditionally offered through telehealth to help improve access and enhance the employee experience. The survey found that 82 percent will provide mental health services to employees virtually; and 60 percent will provide weight management programs virtually.
- Greater access to decision support tools: More than three in four employers (78 percent) plan to offer medical decision support tools and second-opinion services while 73 percent will offer virtual solutions to help with claims assistance. About 60 percent will offer full-service, high-touch concierge programs that help employees navigate the health-care system, reflecting the need to simplify the consumer experience.
- Expansion of mental health benefits: Almost half of large employers will conduct campaigns next year to reduce the stigma that exists around mental health conditions and treatment. More employers will offer online resources (69 percent); manager training to help recognize mental health issues and direct employees to appropriate services (47 percent); onsite mental health counselors (33 percent); and digital cognitive behavioral therapy for mental health issues (28 percent).
- Increased focus on quality: Employers are increasing their focus on health care quality and value with the use of Centers of Excellence (COE), high performance networks and advanced primary care strategies. More than one in four large employers (27 percent) will expand their COE offerings to address additional conditions or procedures, including orthopedics, NBGH noted. In fact, nearly half of large employers will have COEs for musculoskeletal conditions in place for 2020. In addition, a growing number of employers are turning to COE models for fertility and maternity programs. Many employers are expanding the use of incentives to boost employee use of COEs.
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