Employers are Rethinking Benefits to Get More for their Money

Although more than 75 percent of employers focus mostly on their health insurance strategies for avoiding the ACA’s 2018 excise tax, more employers are also improving their employees’ interest levels by offering programs to improve their health. Many are also offering more preventative services as top priorities. These were the findings of a Midwest Business Group on Health survey conducted for the 2016-2017 coverage year. The non-profit company examined 119 employers for the survey.

The survey conductors said that employers are now implementing several innovative strategies to manage health plan offerings. They are also taking steps to encourage workers to be more proactive about managing their health. As the perspective that health benefits are an investment in human capital increases among business owners, more of them are looking for ways to make more effective approaches for facing the largest expense they have aside from payroll.

Survey Findings
About 60 percent of employers said that managing specialty drugs was a priority during the past several years, and another 60 percent said that creating a workplace health culture was important. When asked about the excise tax of 2018, about 20 percent of employers expected to reach it at that time. However, nearly 50 percent reported a projection of reaching it beyond 2019.

Some of the top strategies cited by employers to avoid the future excise tax were offering plans with higher deductibles, increasing access to wellness programs, expanding employee cost share and implementing incentives for employees’ use of wellness programs. Many employers also reported their plans to reduce benefits and optimize networks for top providers.

On the topic of offering workers access to private exchanges, the majority of employers did not report plans to offer this to their workers. However, the amount of employers planning to avoid private exchange access for 2016 decreased in projected plans for 2017 and 2018. While the 2016 reporting was nearly 80 percent, projected plans fell to about 30 percent of employers refusing to offer private exchange access in 2018.

Nearly 55 percent of employers reported their plans to offer high-deductible health coverage. However, they still held faith that PPOs and HMOs would become relevant because of how many workers were in low-salary tiers. About 50 percent of employers that were self-insured cited incentives based on outcomes as a priority. Nearly 80 percent of employers were not sure if increasing employees’ cost share would be higher during the next few years. While a few reported plans to move to 50/50 coverage eventually, most employers planned to stay at the 70/30 coverage rate. More than 45 percent of employers also said that telemedicine would be a priority for them in the near future.

About 60 percent of employers planned to offer benefits in 2025, and the remaining percentage of employers did not yet know what they would do. Government mandates, peer company actions and pressure from the labor market will all influence these decisions.

More than 80 percent of employers planned to cover married same-sex couples in 2016. About 55 percent planned to cover domestic partnerships, and this drops to about 40 percent in 2017. This is likely due to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, which will make domestic partnerships less common.

While only about 35 percent of employers cover workplace violence related to intimate partners, more than 95 percent cover general workplace violence that does not include incidents by intimate partners. More than 55 percent of employers plan to work with excellence centers by 2017, and less than 50 percent plan to offer their workers high-performance provider networks. To learn more about this survey and insurance options in the workplace, discuss concerns with an agent.

 

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