It’s open enrollment season! Here are key findings from the 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey

Every October, the Kaiser Family Foundation releases an extensive look at the healthcare landscape in their Employer Health Benefits Survey. The survey usually turns up several interesting insights into what’s going on in the world of insurance and healthcare. Oftentimes, findings can help offer new way of looking at the challenges of our industry. This year’s survey was just released. As staying on top of the latest industry trends is a key part of success for brokers, carriers and employers alike it’s a must read. This year’s study provided plenty of great insight.  Below are key findings that offer a noteworthy perspective on what’s happening in the insurance world. Perhaps some of the information can help you as you position your offering to employers and maybe even guide the communications you develop on their behalf to help with employee enrollment and participation.

Employees are shouldering more of the financial burden

The trend of cost shifting is nothing new, as employees are being asked to shoulder more and more of the cost of their healthcare. The survey looks at the amount employees are paying and note that the amount is increasing. However, this number lacks a little bit of context as it ignores influencing factors such as inflation or pay increases.

This year’s Kaiser Family Foundation study noted not just that the amount being paid by employees is increasing, but that it is increasing by a fairly significant amount in relation to increases in wages. According to the study, the average single policyholder premium increased 3 percent and the average family premium increased 5 percent over the last year. In that same time period, workers’ wages increased just 2.6 percent. Premiums are on the rise and, especially for families, they’re certainly growing faster than increases in wages.

What does this mean for carriers? This offers a unique opportunity to develop an integrated marketing program working directly with the employers. Lifestage and situation- directed, you can repurpose as a strategic partner for an employees’ health needs. A trend we are seeing is companies including more health and wellness information to round out the value they are providing. In other words, premiums may be on the rise, but help guide employees to better health outcomes so they can save on OOP costs and co-pays. TLF is uniquely skilled to help you with these communications. That leads us to our next topic: wellness programs and incentives.

Wholistic health and wellness plans aren’t going away

The prevalence of health and wellness plans is continuing to trend and grow, especially with larger organizations. What may be more important to consider is what employers are doing with their programs. The study identified three key features amongst companies offering a wellness program.

  • Health and Wellness Promotion Programs  82 percent of large firms and 53 percent of smaller firms offer programs to help identify health risks and unhealthy behaviors along with solutions to improve on those risks and behaviors.
  • Health Risk Assessments   62 percent of large firms and 37 percent of small firms gather data on their employees’ medical history, health status and lifestyle.
  • Biometric Screenings  50 percent of large firms and 21 percent of small firms provide workers the with an in-person health examination to measure risk factors, body mass index, cholesterol plod pressure, stress and nutrition.

What’s the takeaway? Incentives are key to participation. Incentives are an important feature with employers offering rewards or, in some cases, penalties, for participation (or non-participation) in the various program features. Many employers are offering cash rewards or health and wellness incentives for participation (think Fitbit devices and gym memberships). Tying health incentives back to your organization isn’t a bad thing to reinforce. Especially when you can include a communication that references the benefits of staying healthy. This kind of communication can really reinforce the relationship, and impression, an employee has with their insurer.

Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come

Now let’s discuss availability of benefits to employees. It may seem that benefits are the norm and they are commonly available. 90 percent of workers are employed by a firm that offers health benefits to at least some of its workers. That’s in large part due to the fact that the majority of workers are employed at larger companies, which are much more likely to offer coverage. On the other side of the spectrum, just 47 percent of very small firms (3 to 9 workers) offer coverage.

Even for firms offering coverage, it doesn’t always mean that every employee is eligible. The study found that 79 percent of workers at companies offering healthcare benefits are eligible for those benefits.

Some companies also offer incentives for employees not to enroll in their benefits and either seek healthcare coverage elsewhere (16 percent offer an incentive) or seek healthcare through a spouse’s plan (13 percent offer an incentive).

The end result is that only 60 percent of workers who are offered healthcare through their employer actually enroll.  That leads to an overarching industry problem- enticing people to enroll in their plans and participate in their ongoing health and wellness.

Conclusion

Staying on top of the latest healthcare and benefits industry trends is a key part of success for brokers, carriers and employers. This year’s Kaiser study provided plenty of great insight. While many of the trends noted in the study aren’t new, they provide a valuable checkpoint to see where the market is headed. The Lift Factor has extensive experience in crafting communications for employee enrollment and participation. We develop strategic communications that help with both pre and post-enrollment, to engage employers and employees. On the employee spectrum, we are skilled at developing impactful communications that speak to an employees unique situation- be it overall family, specifically health related or financial needs and goals. This kind of specific communications; highly-targeted, helps drive better employee engagement and outcomes.  To contact us to learn more visit this page.

The full Kaiser Family Foundation 2018 survey referenced can be found here.

 

Sources: Trustmark blog content and Kaiser Family Foundation 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey.