Holiday shopping and gift wrapping aside, employee benefits professionals have three overarching priorities as they plow through their end-of-year tasks and prepare for 2023:
- Long-term cost management
- Plan design
- Data transparency.
These topics will be the main focus of the December 15 Alera Engage webinar, A Look Ahead to 2023: Hot Topics and Trends. The presentation, which will conclude with a Q&A session, is designed to help employers and HR professionals adapt their benefits programs to best serve their employees and provide a competitive advantage over other employers — all while meeting the never-ending challenge of containing healthcare costs.
The Long View
With attracting and retaining employees an ongoing concern amid the lingering Great Resignation, employers face a dilemma: how to offer a benefits package workers value while staying within budget at a time of soaring costs. While there’s no magic formula, there is a sensible approach to the problem: long-term cost management.
Inflation is making an impact on all aspects of the economy, and employee benefits managers – already challenged by rising healthcare and pharmaceutical costs before COVID-19 and other factors tipped the world to the brink of recession – are being pressed more than ever to come up with cost-effective solutions.
One example of long-term cost management is the implementation of a drug formulary, defined by the telemedicine platform GoodRX as a “list of generic and brand-name prescription medications covered by your health insurance plan.”
A formulary takes into consideration not only the cost of prescription medications that treat the same condition but also their safety and effectiveness, with the choice of whether a drug is included on the formulary determined by whether it provides a better value than a competing product. Carefully compiled, the formulary provides for the immediate needs of an organization’s employees while containing costs for employee and employer alike.
In the Short Term
Even long-term solutions require short-term action, and the focus for most employee benefits professionals in this moment is on plan design. A reshaping workforce merits a new approach to health benefits, so an organization’s plan design should be reflective of the remote and hybrid work arrangements that have become the norm for much of America.
When it comes to healthcare, employees want access to quality providers wherever they’re living and working. Already trending before the pandemic, telehealth (also known as telemedicine or digital health) became even more widely adopted during COVID-induced lockdowns for physical as well as mental healthcare. At a time when a shortage of healthcare providers is acute in some areas, telehealth and digital solutions not only increase the options available to patients but also offer an opportunity to address issues of health equity, as McKinsey & Company reported earlier this year.
Total Rewards benefit offerings include more than healthcare, however, and designing a benefits plan requires, a concerted, strategic approach. The plan you design should address the complex needs and priorities of today’s diverse workforce, combining standard, voluntary and ancillary benefits.
Transparency Beyond No Surprises
A push toward greater transparency in healthcare costs that included passage of such federal legislation as the No Surprises Act and the Transparency in Coverage Rule is ongoing and includes proposals such as one called the Patient’s Right to Save Act. Conceived by the Cicero Institute’s Jonathan Wolfson and Josh Archambault, the proposal consists of three steps intended to incentivize consumers to take advantage of the ability to shop around for the best providers, services and medicines:
- Require hospitals to publish the cash price of their services;
- Require insurers to count payments to out-of-network providers as credit toward a patient’s deductible;
- Enable patients to keep a share of any savings they secure after hitting their deductible.
It’s an interesting proposal – and an example of the type of thinking employee benefits professionals should be aware of as they design their organization’s plans.
During the December 15 webinar, we’ll discuss transparency – what’s currently required and what to anticipate – as an essential element of benefits plan design, and we’ll make you aware of other key considerations as you prepare for the transition from 2022 to 2023. We can’t help with that holiday shopping you still have left to do, but we will help you prepare for the new year.
About the Author
Third Horizon Strategies
Cheryl Matochik's portfolio of advisory services helps insurance and risk management leaders accelerate profitability and growth via market, product and service strategies, business process automation and analytics-based services that deepen understanding of enterprise risk. Prior to joining Third Horizon Strategies, Cheryl spent 15 years at the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB) in Washington, D.C., working with the leading insurance brokerages in the U.S. and abroad.