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Health Care Benefit Trends

By March 2, 2017Commentary

Employer-sponsored health plans still cover more Americans than any other payer, so there is natural interest in the state of those plans.  The Healthcare Trends Institute surveyed around 250 benefit managers from companies from small to large to get a read on the evolving landscape.   (HCTI Report)   7% of this group of firms did not offer health insurance, 30% offered one option and 42% offered three or more choices.  Over half of their respondents were utilizing a high deductible plan, up from 39% in 2015.  About half of employees are enrolled in an HSA, HRA or flexible spending account.  80% of the companies also offered dental coverage and 73% a vision plan.  Surprisingly, at least to me, 27% don’t offer family coverage, and I assume these are mostly small employers.  And only 37% said they had a wellness/healthy lifestyle program, although more may offer one through an insured plan.  69% use plan and plan cost comparison tools, 58% have online enrollment and access features and 40% have mobile health benefit tools.

Most employers said they are either effective or very effective in communicating with workers about their health benefit plans and options, with email, print and face-to-face communications being most common.  With looming changes in the federal reform law, only 23% think that law has no effect on the health benefits they offer.  Areas of focus for companies are increasing employee engagement in health decisions, increased cost-sharing and more emphasis on wellness and preventative health.  75% say health benefits are very important to attracting and retaining good employees and 68% say such benefits can improve employee morale and satisfaction, while 67% see health plans value in improving employee health.  While there is interest in a defined contribution approach, a large minority of companies say they don’t really understand how it would work.  Among those who do, there is a perception that this approach would encourage employees to be more engaged and cost-conscious.  49% rely on an insurance broker to help them with health benefit plan issues and 38% on a benefit consultant.

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