With employee health benefits in a state of evolution, we wanted to hear from employers where they thought all this change might take us in five years. The results from our sponsored research offer some interesting insights on an industry in flux. The Benefits Outlook 2020 report shows that the majority of those on the front lines are stuck in a waiting game of sorts. Waiting for legislative decisions, waiting on early returns from exchanges, or perhaps as the report concludes, they are waiting for someone or something to disrupt an industry that is struggling to embrace change.
While waiting on changes already in motion and those anticipated, the majority of respondents, not surprisingly, remain focused on cost control as the number one priority when it comes to benefits. Yet many acknowledged that health care consumerism can’t be ignored. The survey captured evidence that employers are beginning to respond: employee retention/ growth and market competitiveness in the next year were the most marked shifts tagged as growing, significant priorities.
In turn, we are starting to see evidence that people are paying attention to their personal health. Wearable device and wellness app adoption is on the rise, and we’re also seeing a percolation of acknowledgement that health is not an entitlement. As costs are hitting the employee more and more, value is becoming more relevant to the consumer as well.
My word of advice to employers is to focus on the experience they are offering to employees across health benefits. One of the biggest problems we are starting to see is the confused consumer. The more options and messages, the harder it becomes to deliver a positive, meaningful experience that engages employees in ways that will impact the bottom line. Elevating, not degrading, the consumer experience is critical.
When I think about employee health benefits five years down the line, the biggest opportunity that I see is through innovative partnerships. In particular, collaborating with local health care systems – particularly those serving large portions of an employee population – holds potential for improving employee health and potentially driving better value, while also helping to control costs for the employer. Thanks to some early innovators like Boeing, we can see what some of these arrangements might hold.
It will be interesting to see where market disruption might emerge and become an effective tool for change. There are so many meaningful advances happening right now that offer great potential to improve the system for employers and employees, but whatever pushes the industry forward will be welcomed if it truly improves the triple aim of health, health care and cost.
For further insight into the mind of employers, download a copy of the white paper here.