In the past six months, I’ve spoken with more than 200 benefits brokers. As a result, I’ve gained some valuable insight into what is top-of-mind among employers, when it comes to benefits.
- Employers continue to move in the direction of consumer-directed health plans, HSA health plans, HRA health plans and ‘account-based’ health plans. This movement is steady, ’not a ‘mad-dash,’ according to brokers.
- Employers vary dramatically in their understanding and aggressiveness of cost-containment and mitigating the high cost of healthcare.’ The majority of benefits brokers I spoke with have sophisticated approaches to accomplish this. However, some employers are eager to adopt these strategies, while others are not.
- The reason for this wide range in employer aggressiveness seems to be a lack of an organizational imperative. Healthcare cost containment and lowering healthcare costs are priorities from some businesses, but certainly not all.
- Reasons why these issues aren’t a priority for corporate executives include:
- Mergers and acquisitions are a greater priority
- Attracting and retaining employees are a priority because of the overall lower unemployment rate
- Affordable Care Act (ACA)/regulatory compliance is still demanding a lot of attention
- Corporate profitability has been fairly high and rising, so companies are not paying as much attention to controlling costs
- Data security is demanding more attention, for both employees and organizations
- Specialty Pharmacy costs are of concern and changing pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that have more/better programs to address specialty pharmacy is fairly hot.
- There has NOT been a rapid adoption of 1) reference-based-pricing, 2) narrow networks, or 3) Medicare Cost-Plus plan designs. Some employers use them, but there is no significant ‘movement.’
- Telemedicine has become more popular, but is not viewed as the central strategy for cost containment.
- Employee Engagement is a challenge that employers want to fix and they are turning to their employee benefits brokers and consultants for help. Brokers are using a combination of 1) incentive strategies, 2) penalty strategies and 3) consumer tools and support services (like Compass) to achieve their engagement goals. See my recent blog on Health Activation for more on this subject.
- Wellbeing is the buzzword of the last 12-24 months, with brokers/benefits consultants expanding what they consider ‘Wellness’ to include concern not only for employees’ health, but also stress management, resiliency and financial literacy. I have NOT seen yet how ‘Wellbeing’ has translated into changes in employee benefits purchasing decisions (e.g. a growth of ‘EAP-like’ services). It could just be chatter or I could be missing something.
To learn more about Compass, our 2,000+ clients and our employee engagement strategies, visit www.compassphs.com