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4 benefit trends to watch in 2021

Telehealth Bloomberg

Employee benefits have been a recruiting and retention mainstay for decades. Companies compete for the best talent through a variety of strategies and offerings, including generous benefit packages.

All indications suggest that such benefits are undergoing transformational change, and what used to be considered a “standard benefit package” 20 years ago, does not reflect the needs of today. As a result, employers are having to find new and creative ways to make their benefits stand out. In light of that, here are four trends to watch in 2021.

Healthcare plan innovation

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that health insurance premiums have grown by 54% over the last 11 years. Moreover, employees have shouldered 71% of the burden. Things have come to a breaking point at which both employers and employees can no longer afford rising premiums.

This suggests that employers will start looking for more innovative healthcare plans that allow them to better manage the rising cost of benefits. That might mean contracting directly with service providers specializing in areas, such as joint surgeries or cancer treatment. By contracting directly with the providers, employers can ensure excellent care is provided at a set, contracted rate. It might mean providing on-site primary care clinics or offering a health care plan with a narrow provider network to guide employees to lower-cost and higher-quality providers. Whatever the case, new healthcare plans appear to be on the horizon.

Telehealth benefits

As companies look to modify their employee benefit offerings in 2021, we anticipate the expansion of telehealth benefits. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, more individuals have leveraged telehealth benefits to receive acute, chronic, primary and specialty care. Leveraging technology through phone and/or video interaction with healthcare providers has allowed individuals to receive necessary healthcare services, while decreasing the risk of spreading illnesses and infections. Another benefit of telehealth is providing medical access to people in remote or rural locations. Looking ahead, telehealth benefits will play a larger role in the way patients receive medical care.

Non-medical offerings

Employers can maximize their benefits portfolio with non-medical offerings. The benefits are a cost-effective solution that allow employees to customize their employee benefit packages to cover a range of employee’s needs.

SHRM recently noted the growing popularity of personalized benefits packages. In other words, a company might offer a package that starts with basic health insurance and paid time off benefits for all workers. After that, workers can add extra benefits from a menu of options, including pet insurance, short-term disability, access to legal services, whole or term life insurance, and more. Since these benefits are voluntary, many plans are employee-paid allowing employers to invest in benefits that are most valued by their employees. With a multi-generational workforce, personalizing benefit programs allows employees to access what they truly need at any given stage in their life.

Renewed focus on mental health

Finally, we have noticed a greater emphasis on mental health in the workplace over the last few months. Numerous reports have shown that U.S. employees are suffering from stress and mental illness at higher rates than in the past. Where employers can contribute by reducing workplace stress, they are looking to do so. This can be achieved by offering Employee Assistance Program or tailoring the medical plan to include behavioral health visits both onsite and virtually.

Benefits packages continue to evolve over time. There is no reason to believe such evolution will cease. If anything, 2021 could prove to be a very transformational year for employee benefits.
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