By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
The vast majority (94 percent) of employers agree that they are likely to continue to sponsor health care benefits over the next five years, according to recent research from Willis Towers Watson. The Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey also found that employers expect health care cost increases of 5.0 percent in 2019, compared with 4.7 percent in 2018.
When seeking to manage health care costs, employers are focused on clinical conditions (85 percent) and investing in employee wellbeing (82 percent) over the next three years. While these are priorities, employers report that little progress has been made in these areas over the last three years. Fewer than one-third (30 percent) say they have made advancements in clinical conditions, and only 41 percent say the same for employee wellbeing.
“Although we have seen changes in health care legislation and consolidation across the industry, one thing is clear: Employer-sponsored health care is not changing any time soon,” said Julie Stone, managing director of specialty practices and intellectual capital at Willis Towers Watson. “Employers remain dedicated to engaging employees and their family members across the continuum of health care needs—from improving their wellbeing through preventive care, to helping them manage complex issues.”
Wellbeing plans falling short. Although wellbeing programs have been a priority for many years, employers recognize their current policies and initiatives are falling short of expectations. Employers are not actively engaged in their wellbeing initiatives, as less than half (47 percent) say their population participates in the plans. And even though chronic illness is cited as employers’ number one priority over the next three years, only 19 percent say their current wellbeing policy is effective at reducing the impact of chronic diseases on employees and providing the support needed.
The survey found that 80 percent of employers are currently sponsoring or considering sponsoring programs by 2020 that target specific clinical conditions or high-cost cases, such as maternity, diabetes, depression and metabolic syndrome, to improved employees’ physical wellbeing. Nearly half of these employers (48 percent) have already put these initiatives in place.
Employers are also prioritizing their employees’ emotional wellbeing through mental and behavioral health investments. Thirty-nine percent of employers offer initiatives to support chronic behavioral health conditions, and 26 percent are considering these initiatives for 2020.
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