By Andie Burjek
Jun. 25, 2019
The Society for Human Resource Management released its annual benefits survey today at the organization’s annual conference in Las Vegas.
The survey confirmed some facts that HR has known for a while, like that employers find that retirement and health care benefits are most important to their workforce. It also highlighted some major trends that are impacting the benefits landscape including health insurance costs, competition for top talent and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Not surprisingly, employer-sponsored health care is a major concern for both employees and employers. The SHRM survey found that eighty-five percent of organizations prefer Preferred Provider Organization insurance plans. Meanwhile, though, interest in high deductible health plans linked with health saving accounts is rising. Fifty-nine percent of organizations offer an HDHP plan option that’s linked with a savings/spending account while 19 percent offer an HDHP option that’s not linked with an account.
Employers in general are aware that social determinants of health may impact an employee’s ability to afford to access coverage, but the survey data doesn’t show a response to that in the form of something like wage-based premiums or a reduction in cost-shifting, according to SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso. That being said, he sees an increase in “cafeteria-style benefits” as a way for employees to access what benefits they need for their individual circumstances.
The survey also shared some details on how health care costs are being split between employers and employees. For full-time employees, it depends on company size. Twenty-eight percent or companies with 1-99 employees fully pay for health insurance premiums, compared to 9 percent of employers with over 500 employees.
Also notable is that offering health insurance to part-time employees is becoming more popular in order to attract and retain talent. Still, 19 percent of organizations require part-time employees to pay their premiums in full, while 36 percent of organizations share the cost.
According to Alonso, there has also been an increase in telemedicine. It can be a “convenient health care option” for employees, especially those in rural areas where there aren’t as many health care providers as more urban areas.
On the more surprising side, employers as a whole ranked wellness “near the bottom in importance to their workforce.” SHRM Director of Data Science Liz Supinski said one reason behind this is that insurers are increasingly offering services like chronic disease management programs that used to only be offered through wellness services.
Between and 2015 and 2019, a couple key areas of health care have seen a dramatic drop of prevalence, according the survey. Ninety-one percent of employers offered mental health coverage in 2015 compared to 83 percent in 2019, and 83 percent of employers offered contraceptive coverage in 2015 compared to 71 percent in 2019.
Supinski noted that this is not necessarily a negative sign or employees who need to access mental health or reproductive health services. Rather, before the Affordable Care Act, these areas were not automatically included in the core, basic health plan, and then the ACA mandated them as essential health benefits. The survey question refers to extra services that exist out of the health plan.
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