What are the Must-Have Benefits for 2019?

With healthcare costs projected to be nearly $15,000 per employee, and chances are you have already begun to think about next year’s benefits package for your employees and its impact on them and your business.

Benefit costs are estimated to increase to an average of $14,800, which includes premiums and out-of-pocket costs, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. This is a 5 percent increase from 2018.

Most employers offer a high deductible plan with a health savings account (HSA), followed by a preferred-provider organization with a lower deductible (PPO) with a health maintenance organization (HMO) as the least popular choice.

We all know it’s important to make your selections as soon as possible when it comes to making your benefits choices for the year ahead.

Wellness Wins

As has been the trend in previous years, employers are expected to continue to pursue wellness program offerings. These offerings – which run the gamut from discounted yoga classes to smoking cessation programs – have been found to improve the health of employees, lower workplace absenteeism, and generally make your company more attractive to potential employees. The ideal is a mix of lifestyle and disease management programs. Combined, the two programs can reduce health care costs by about $30 per member per month, with disease management saving the lion’s share at 87% of those savings, according to a study by Rand. Employers can recoup $1.50 for every $1 they spend on wellness programs.

Supplemental Savings

Baby boomers still make up a good chunk of America’s workforce, which means that their needs are certainly important when considering benefit offerings. As this cohort continues to age, these workers are increasingly interested in supplemental insurance offerings that help to close some of the financial liability associated with Medicare coverage, including greater prescription coverage and Medigap insurance to help close the co-pay loop.

Lending on Loans

We’ve discussed the baby boomers and their requests for coverage, but our fine friends – the millennials – also have their eye on some pretty unique benefits heading into 2019. Currently, only a handful of US companies offer student loan repayment programs, but the fact that 44 million Americans (and not just millennials!) hold a staggering $1.5 trillion in student loan debt suggests that this type of refinancing program become increasingly attractive.

Better Use of Data

While not necessarily a benefit in and of its own, looking to 2019, employers want to start putting all the health data that is gathered on their employees to better use to help determine which health conditions are most prevalent in their workplace, how many employees use wellness offerings, and are workers leveraging low-cost providers, among other questions. The impetus for this data mining is to essentially determine how staff are using their benefits and what can be done to help them better manage their medical issues in a more efficient – and let’s face it, less costly – manner moving forward.

To try to manage benefits to contain costs, insurance companies may vary offerings.

Drug Cuts

Spending on prescription medications, in particular, continues to be a major source of employee – and employer – spending, so look for companies to increasingly pursue opportunities to slash prices, including potentially omitting certain drugs from their formularies (or making them more expensive), contracting with pharmacies, and potentially increasingly participating in rebate programs.

Belt Tightening

There’s no way to sugar coat it – the cost of delivering health care continues to climb and, sadly, those costs are being passed along to consumers. In particular, 2019 will likely see a push for alternative healthcare delivery methods, including doctor appointments via Skype and other telemedicine opportunities, as well as direct contracting with certain providers and/or hospitals to provide discounted care.