Market Outlook for Employee Benefits

by Kayla Northup, Employee Benefits Manager/Agent

Our world has been upended in the last two years. Businesses and employees have had to adapt to unprecedented changes and uncertainty. Covid has created new norms, new rhythms of business and new expectations from
employees. Employers who can think creatively about how they can accommodate employee desires while also controlling costs are well positioned for future growth and stability.

Tips for attracting new and retaining current employees: Hiring is difficult. The available labor pool is small and there is a large number of job openings. Employers can differentiate themselves by rethinking their approach to benefits and employee engagement. Money isn’t the only factor. Flexible scheduling, mental health resources, and growth opportunities all top the list for sought after benefits of job seekers. While benefits may get them on the payroll, employees are looking for a company culture that demonstrates how much they care about their workers. Now more than ever, people are looking for a career that aligns with their priorities. Talk with employees regularly to ensure they are feeling connected and engaged.

Telemedicine encourages well-being of your staff: Telemedicine uses technology to connect a physician with a patient and it exploded in popularity during the Covid pandemic. The use of telemedicine isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. While telemedicine isn’t a good fit for all situations, it does provide patients greater flexibility and
savings compared to in-person visits. Plus, the convenience encourages employees to see their doctor more frequently which helps to maintain overall health. Most health plans include telemedicine benefits.

Mental health care options offer support: Many employers are finding ways to better support the mental health of their staff. Reducing the office visit copay for mental health services is a great way to do so. A lower copay encourages better usage by removing a cost barrier. Another tool is Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). EAPs can be purchased as a stand-alone benefit and they are also often included as a value-add service with disability plans. An EAP provides a confidential source that employees can use to fi nd support and resources for challenges they face. EAPs often include mental health counseling, caregiver support, family services and financial wellness services.

Health care cost control: Experts are expecting a 5% to 7% increase in health care costs in 2022. An employer-level strategy for cutting costs is alternative health plan models like Reference Based Pricing and Level Funding. Improving employee health care literacy is another tool to rein-in costs. Arming employees with basic questions such as “How much will this cost?” and “Can I be treated in an equally effective but less costly manner?” can help them make more informed health care decisions.