Rising health insurance costs is a major challenge for employers — and it impacts nearly all of them. Premiums increased for nine in 10 employers this year, and 23% saw double-digit increases, according to Gallagher’s 2015 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking Survey.
“By far, the top benefits concern among employers is the continued rise in the cost of providing group medical coverage for employees,” says James W. Durkin, Jr., president of Gallagher Benefit Services.
Employers aren’t alone in experiencing higher medical costs.
“Because costs are rising, that means employees’ costs are rising also,” says John Neumaier, an executive vice president at Gallagher Benefit Services. The average deductible for a family is $3,000 in network and $4,500 out of network, he says. For single employees, the average in-network deductible is $1,200 and $2,000 for out of network.
That leaves employers with the task of offering an attractive benefits package while also managing costs. “Today's employers are trying to achieve balance between two competing concerns — the need to have the best possible people to grow their businesses while decreasing operating costs, including controlling health care expenses,” says Durkin.
The key to accomplishing that is creating a strategic plan, Neumaier says. “It should be the foundation,” he says. Once a strategic plan is devised, employers can develop a total compensation and benefits plan, he says.
When designing that plan, employers should take a comprehensive approach, Neumaier says. “It goes beyond benefits,” he says. Offering rich benefits is important, but other factors such as a flexible work schedule and parental leave must also be considered, Neumaier says. That approach helps with recruiting and retaining employees, he says, which saves money. “Turnover is costly,” Neumaier says.
Also see: 10 ways to jumpstart a wellness program
The ultimate goal of reducing costs has led to an increased implementation of wellness programs — 70% of employers with at least 1,000 employees offer such programs, according to the survey of 3,031 U.S. employers. However, many employers, 72%, who offer wellness programs are concerned about a lack of participation. “If we’re not getting that participation, we’re not getting full use of [the program],” Neumaier says.
There’s also an increased interest among employers about private exchanges, he says. Private exchanges can provide flexible cost-effective benefits, Neumaier says. The variety of offerings an employer can put on a marketplace appeals to a multigenerational workforce, he says.
Making employees aware of and knowledgeable about their benefits is another important aspect employers need to address. But, it shouldn’t be limited just during open enrollment, Neumaier says. “Communication needs to be a year-round strategy,” he says.
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