As we start 2019, a low unemployment rate means that employers are competing for top talent, and benefits are more important than ever. As a TPA, how can you help clients stay competitive? As an employer, how can you stand out? Below are eight trends to keep top of mind as you contemplate these questions.
- Cutting health insurance costs will be on everyone’s mind. The cost of employer-sponsored health care is expected to rise by 5 percent again in 2019, and both employers and employees are looking for ways to cut costs. This could be done by switching to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), shifting costs to employers or trying to lower costs through wellness programs that improve health and by getting smart about comparison shopping for health care.
- HSAs will provide attractive options. Between 2007 and 2017, enrollment in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) combined with a health savings account (HSA) went from only 4.2 percent to 18.9 percent. HSAs, along with FSAs and HRAs, could reduce employee and employer health care costs by almost a third by using pre-tax money. HSAs can also be used in retirement planning. Popularity is likely to increase, and proposed legislation could expand options.
- Some individuals may opt out of health benefits. Starting in 2019, the individual mandate, which requires individuals to carry health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, will no longer be enforced with a penalty. Some young and healthy individuals may decide to drop coverage as a result.
- Telemedicine will continue to grow. In 2018, 74 percent of large companies that offered health care provided telemedicine options. Because telemedicine provides convenience while also cutting costs, advocates will continue to push this option. By 2025, the global telehealth market could reach $19.5 billion, up from $6 billion in 2016.
- One size won’t fit all. When looking at job ads, 63 percent of job seekers and employees rank benefits as a priority. Employees care about benefits, and employers looking to attract talent will need to provide plenty of choice. This can include different health coverage options, retirement plans and voluntary benefits, as well as flexible hours, parental leave, paid time off and work-from-home options.
- Financial wellness will be a top priority. Health care isn’t the only benefit that matters. Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, carrying substantial debt and struggling to save. When asked what benefits they want but don’t have, 25 percent of employees cite financial wellness, and 20 percent cite help understanding their other benefits.
- Student loan repayment programs could take off. It’s no secret that millennials have a lot of student debt. Employers are starting to respond by offering repayment programs. Moving forward, we can expect to see more companies join the trend, and an IRS decision to allow one company’s retirement plan, student loan repayment hybrid could open new doors for others.
- Benefits will get high tech. These days, pretty much everyone has a smartphone, and younger generations expect to have instant access to information. To save time, simplify processes, improve communication and reduce the risk of human errors, more companies will embrace modern benefit administration systems.