Since my crystal ball doesn’t have any bars here in the office, to make a good prediction for 2017, the best place to look is what’s a trend right now. Acknowledging and responding to these trends in healthcare and benefits can help companies recruit and retain talented employees and help you position yourself for a more productive 2017.
Trend 1: Virtual Doctor Visits
Being able to see a doctor at the drop of a hat makes it more likely people will seek care when they need it.
Fueled by technological advances and consumer demand, “telemedicine” is the top trend of 2016. You can use technology to facilitate communication, in real-time, between a doctor and patient who are not in the same physical location for the purpose of evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. The American Telemedicine Association reported that there were 1 million virtual doctor visits last year. The number is expected to go way up this year. Advantages of telemedicine include:
- More convenient care
- Increased access to doctors, especially in rural areas
- Greater access to specialists, especially for things like mental health services
- Higher cost savings for patients and plan sponsors
Virtual Doctor visits are a great option for younger people. With people ages 26 just coming into the health insurance world on their own, being able to see a doctor at the drop of a hat makes it more likely people will seek care when they need it.
The rate of employers who offer telemedicine benefits has grown significantly; it went from 48 percent in 2015 to 74 percent in 2016, according to a study from the National Business Group. In addition, more insurers are now covering telemedicine services. As insurers and regulators work to resolve the challenges posed by telemedicine, and as consumer demand for telehealth services grows, telemedicine will continue to be a popular topic in the benefits industry.
Do you want to offer Virtual Doctor’s Visits to your employees? Fill out the form below to get more information.
Trend 2: Health Care Costs to Rise
Health care costs will continue to rise. National health spending is projected to exceed $10,000 per person this year. This number is estimated to grow an additional 5.8 percent per year from 2017 to 2019.
Employer health spending is also expected to increase 6.5 percent in 2016. However, this cost burden will likely be shouldered by employees, as more employers are expected to make moves to contain costs. These moves can include switching to plans with higher deductibles, narrowing network restrictions, raising premiums and even adopting a defined contribution strategy.
Primary reasons for this rise in health care costs include:
- Increased utilization and consumer demand
- Fast-paced growth in medical prices
- Aging workforce population
- Growing costs of prescription and specialty drugs
Despite these projected increases, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that insurance companies, cost-conscious consumers and provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may help prevent sharp, unexpected increases in prices. For more information on how to contain costs and help your employees make informed health decisions, contact Get Benefits Insurance today.
Trend 3: Student Loan Repayment Benefits
Obtaining a college education, which is becoming an unwritten requirement for many jobs, comes with a hefty price tag. The class of 2016 graduated with an average of $37,712 in loan debt per student.
According to Beyond—a career networking company—89 percent of job seekers surveyed believe that companies should offer a student loan repayment program as part of their benefits package. As this benefit becomes more publicized, interest in student loan repayment programs will grow quickly, especially as more millennial and Generation Z college graduates enter the workforce.
While the benefits are obvious for employees, offering some form of a student loan repayment benefit program can result in the following benefits for employers, too:
- Increased recruitment and retention success
- Improved employee morale and productivity
- Expanded voluntary benefits offerings
While the concept of offering student loan repayment benefits is relatively new and there are important aspects to consider (e.g., limits and frequency of contributions, eligibility, tax issues, etc.), the demand for such a benefit will grow. Consider offering a student loan repayment program to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Trend 4: Growth of Voluntary Benefits
According to recent studies, 92 percent of employers believe that voluntary benefits will become increasingly important in the next few years. Historically, voluntary benefits have been a relatively inexpensive way to expand an employer’s offerings, which can be a significant strategy in recruiting and retaining employees.
Similarly, a 2015 study by Aflac revealed that 88 percent of employees saw voluntary benefits as a crucial part of a comprehensive benefits package. Research indicates that the fastest growing voluntary benefits include:
- Identity theft protection
- Financial counseling services
- Pet insurance
Voluntary benefits will remain an important trend, especially because the majority of the workforce expects employers to offer at least the traditional offerings (dental, vision, etc.).
By being aware of these benefits trends, you can set yourself apart from your competitors and better position your company for recruiting and retention success. For further information on any of these topics, contact me today.