It’s been a busy year for employee benefits, and open enrollment hasn’t even started yet. Here’s a look at what’s happening now.
COBRA subsides end. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) established 100% COBRA premium subsidies for eligible individuals. Those subsides end on September 30, 2021, and COBRA administrators are required to send out notices about the termination of subsidies. According to the National Law Review, employers have to send out notices by September 15.
New strategies encourage COVID vaccination. Some employers are trying health insurance surcharges to encourage employees to get vaccinated. Delta Air Lines announced that unvaccinated employees would pay an extra $200 a month in health insurance premiums. According to Healthline, surveys have found that people are split on this approach. SHRM warns that premium differences could be considered a wellness program and subject to various laws, including HIPAA and the ADA. On September 9, the White House released a plan that calls for a new OSHA rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to require that all employees are vaccinated or receive a negative test result every week.
Employer-sponsored health plan coverage drops. Many people lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs during the pandemic. According to Health Payer Intelligence, 2021 data shows that employer-sponsored health coverage has declined even as employment levels have recovered.
Employers are expanding voluntary benefit options. Although the number of people with job-based insurance has dropped, many employers that offer benefits are planning to expand their offerings. According to HR Dive, a Gallagher study four that 41% of employers have changed their voluntary benefit offerings to meet recruitment and retention goals this year. Almost one in five employers are offering pet insurance.
Mental health benefits attract attention. Metal health has taken a hit during the pandemic. According to Yahoo Finance, a survey from Willis Towers Watson found that 89% of employers say that employee emotional wellbeing is their top benefit objective for the next two years, and 73% of employers plan to increase their support for mental health, including depression, stress and burnout.
DEI objectives drive strategies. Also from Yahoo Finance, the Willis Towers study found that 73% of respondents say that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals are driving their benefits strategy. A tight labor market and rising benefit costs were also cited as important factors.
Employers fight the Great Resignation with key benefits. Multiple studies have shown that many remote workers would rather quit that return to the office. It doesn’t look like they were bluffing. According to Business Insider, another 4 million workers quit in July, making it the fourth month in row with record resignation rates. In addition to offering remote work, when possible, other benefits may help. CNBC says that some employers are offering childcare benefits to attract workers, and HR Morning explains how fertility benefits could help.
Technology will play a key role in this year’s open enrollment. Some workers have returned to the office, but many people are still working remotely. This hybrid arrangement may complicate this year’s open enrollment. According to Benefits Pro, 57% of insurance brokers say technology will be important this year, and 88% of agency plan to conduct at least 25% of open enrollment activities online.