Health benefits seen as tool to improve employee morale, survey finds

As the health care industry undergoes significant changes, more than two-thirds of employers are relying on health benefits packages to improve employee morale and satisfaction within the workplace, according to findings from the Healthcare Trends Institute’s fourth annual Benefits Benchmark Survey, which provides employers insights into how their peers are adopting new health care benefits options.

According to the survey, the majority of employers and HR executives view health benefits offerings as key tools to attract and retain employees. When asked which of the following were important outcomes of the health benefits offering, three-quarters of respondents answered that retaining and attracting quality employees were important outcomes. The majority of respondents also said that improving employee morale and satisfaction (68 percent) and improving employee health (67 percent) were key considerations.

Further, when asked to rank on a scale of one to 10 how strongly they agreed with the statement “the quality of a benefits package impacts the reputation of my company”—with 10 being “strongly agree”—67 percent selected seven or higher, with nearly a quarter citing “strongly agree.”

“Employers are faced with daily challenges to keep employees healthy and engaged at work,” said Tiffany Wirth, executive director, Healthcare Trends Institute. “As the market continues to move in a direction of consumerism and consolidation, it is important to track how offerings have evolved as well as the perspectives of HR and benefits administrators on the types of plans that are most effective in meeting employees’ demands.”

Employers seek more choices at better costs. In terms of current offerings, the survey found:

• Seventy percent of respondents said their company currently offers preferred provider organizations (up from 60 percent in 2015);
• Sixty-seven percent offer flexible spending accounts (FSA) (up from 59 percent in 2015);
• Fifty-nine percent offer health savings accounts (HSA) (up from 52 percent in 2015); and
• Fifty-three percent offer high deductible health plans (up from 39 percent in 2015).

The growth in these types of plans and consumer spending accounts is indicative of the market shifting to consumer-driven healthcare and increased employee cost-sharing. Notably, more than half of employers responded that their employees are enrolled in an HSA, FSA or HRA.

Given the uncertainty of health care reform, some employers are making changes to their offerings. Approximately one in five survey respondents said they are increasing employee cost-sharing and employee engagement in healthcare decisions. Employers are also looking to enhance wellness and preventative health programs (18 percent). During the past two years, the approach to designing benefits has changed, with nearly one-third (29 percent) of respondents citing that they are now collaborating with outside organizations to find opportunities to reduce employee costs, and 27 percent responding that they are now offering healthy lifestyle and wellness incentives. Nearly one in five (16 percent) said they are working directly with providers to design health plans.

SOURCE: http://www.wexhealthinc.com/healthcare-trends-institute/

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