With the COVID-19 pandemic creating unexpected uncertainties, many employers have stepped up to help their employees deal with the current situation. Right from offering corporate wellness programs for their physical and mental wellness while working remotely, to making the needed changes to the workplace as a back-to-work safety strategy and offering many other employee benefits and perks, employers are doing their best to support their workforce through tough times.
However, the situation has costed the employers more than just reduced productivity and a negative impact from the falling economy.
An annual survey conducted by the Business Group on Health (BGH) revealed that many large employers expected a 5.3% increase in the employee health benefit costs by 2021.
The Employers Health Plan Survey Outcomes
BGH’s 2021 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey was conducted in May-June 2020, with 122 big company employers, with 77% of them having more than 10,000 employees each. On the whole, the employers offered health plans coverage to almost 9.2 million employees and their dependents.
Despite the uncertainties fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have predicted that the corporate health benefit costs, including prescription drugs, are bound to increase a little more than 5% (approx. 5.3%) in 2021, compared to the 5% rises in the past five years.
While the planned projected increase in healthcare costs was 5.0% in 2019 and 2020, it is 5.3% for 2021. The projection without plan design changes was 6.0% for 2019 and 2020, while it is 6.1% for 2021. Surprisingly, the actual healthcare costs increase was only 4.9% in 2019, a little lesser than the anticipated 5.0%.
The survey reported that for the year 2020 – the average total health care costs, including the premiums and the amounts spent by the employees, may supposedly reach $14,769 per employee, which is almost $197 higher than the amount spent in 2019. However, for 2021 the total costs are estimated to reach around $15,500.
While the employers were bearing 70% of the expenses, the employees were contributing 30% towards the costs.
- For 2020 – the employers paid around $10,340 per employee or for their dependent, while the employees contributed around $4,430.
- For 2021 – the estimated amount to be spent by the employers is around $10,850, while the employees may have to pay around $4,650.
Employee Health and Wellness, and It’s Related Costs
Like 2019, the employee health and wellness conditions driving the primary healthcare costs remained the same for 2020 too, with the top 5 conditions being –
- Musculoskeletal disorders – knee replacements, hip replacements, and lower back pain.
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Maternity/neonatal intensive care
Almost 69% of the respondent employers were offering access to online resources supporting employee mental health and wellness. This number is expected to reach 88% in 2021. Many others were also offering digital health solutions to ensure employee health and wellness as a back-to-work strategy.
A rough 47% of employers are already training their managers to recognize employee mental health and behavioral issues, an additional 18% are expected to do the same in 2021. While 27% are planning on bringing mental health counseling services directly to the employees at the worksite, almost 54% are working to reduce or waive the costs for virtual mental wellness services. The survey also reveals the top 5 healthcare parameters that employees are prioritizing for better employee health and wellness in 2021 –
- 52% – Offer more virtual telehealth services
- 36% – Expand mental health services
- 31% – Strategize to reduce healthcare claims
- 24% – Access to specialized care for exceptional health conditions
- 12% – Networking with better healthcare provider
Employer Strategies For Better Employee Wellness
With employee health and wellness becoming a top priority, employers are looking for better strategies and are considering their actions about employee wellness and healthcare.
- Associating Health Care with Workplace Strategies – Healthcare strategies were an integral part of the workplace wellness strategies for quite some time. While 36% of employers linked health care with their workplace wellness strategies in 2019, the number rose to 45% in 2020.
- Moderating High-Cost Health Care Therapies – 67% of the respondents claimed that the high-cost health care treatments were of huge concern to the management, and so, they were working on actionable strategies to reduce the costs of the expensive treatments, while making it still accessible to the employees.
- Focusing on Primary Care – Many respondents have planned on connecting directly with the primary healthcare providers to improve the quality and delivery of chronic disease management, mental health services, and other preventive services. While 46% of the employers offered some kind of primary care strategy in 2020, it is expected to increase to 51% in 2021.
Many employers are already providing corporate wellness programs and other employee health and wellness modules, to help the workforce adopt healthy living habits and gain holistic wellness. With mental health being stigmatized still in society, employers are also working to support employee mental wellness. And the key to better employee wellness and business productivity is to strategize well – bring the right healthcare to the employees, while still cutting down its costs.