Stay Ahead of the Curve: Top Healthcare Trends Every Benefits Leader Needs to Know

As you dive into 2020 strategy, there are a few industry trends worth discussing. Their ability to impact your current benefits offerings—as well as those you plan to offer in 2021 and beyond—is important to recognize. Not to mention, it sheds light on how things have evolved since the 2019 trend forecast!

Here are the top three healthcare trends, as they relate to benefits, that we’ve been thinking about as we start the new year.

Increased focus on mental health benefits  

As more members of Generation Z enter the workforce and more Millennials break through to leadership ranks, you can expect to see mental health benefits become more prominent—and easier for employees to find and use. 

Price Waterhouse Cooper reports that stress management programs have become significantly more prevalent among employers. While 40% of companies offered such programs in 2018, 61% have done so in 2019, and the trend is expected to continue. 

According to the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, 41% of organizations have implemented programs to train HR and management teams on how to recognize behavioral health concerns in employees. Meanwhile, Mind Share Partners has found that 50% of Millennials and 75% of Generation Z have left roles for mental health reasons (compared with 34% of overall respondents).

More telemedicine options

As healthcare costs continue to rise, many employers are looking to offer lower-cost virtual healthcare options to their employees.

Virtual health care, also known as telemedicine, allows employees to speak with physicians—and, increasingly, psychiatrists, therapists, and other providers of mental healthcare—regarding non-urgent, non-life-threatening issues. The National Business Group on Health reports that more than half of all employers will offer virtual care benefits in the next year, and the number of employers who believe virtual care will play a significant role in how healthcare is delivered continues to grow: 64% for 2020 compared with 52% for 2019.

According to Willis Towers Watson, 89% of employers are expected to offer coverage for telebehavioral health services by 2021, up from 72%. Research from AHIP has found that more than 73% of employers see virtual care serving as a useful component of a shared-saving strategy—one that also improves appropriate care measures. 

Straying from full-replacement HDHPs 

While account-based health plans remain popular, many employers are moving away from the full-replacement strategy. The intent is to better serve employees with chronic conditions, as well as those who may struggle with the burden of meeting increasingly higher deductibles (and therefore tend to avoid seeking needed care).

Researchers from Mercer have found that the percentage of employers offering full-replacement HDHPs has fallen from 22% to 16%. The National Business Group on Health expects employers to include more plan options (with PPOs being the most popular) in 2020. Additionally, they project the percentage of employers offering full replacement HDHPs to fall to 25% in 2020, down from 30% in 2019 and 39% in 2018.

What does this mean for benefits leaders?

As you measure the results from last year’s benefits strategy and assess how they impact this year’s, consider these trends as well. Evaluate how they might influence your key cost drivers or total rewards package. What you learn may change the way you identify tactics that drive your engagement going forward!


Want to examine these insights further? Learn about our Benefits Value Index:

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