The new year and new presidential administration mean a lot of changes are on the horizon for employee benefits. High-deductible health plans have become a focus in recent years to help combat rising health care costs. We’re seeing more use of telemedicine, where employees use phone or video chat to interact with health care providers.
The Affordable Care Act could be facing repeal or replacement. None of us know what might take its place. Given these and other uncertainties, it’s hard to say what might happen this year to affect employee benefits. However, here are a few trends that benefit advisers think we might see in 2017.
We’ve always had the 800-number on the back of our health care cards. But 2017 may see the introduction of some more involved methods of providing assistance to employees who have questions about their coverage. Rather than reaching an automated system, employees may soon be directed to a health care consultant who can not only assist with things like checking the status of their claim, but may also advise them on other ways to get the most out of their benefits.
Voluntary benefits, such as dental or vision coverage, are nothing new. They’re optional coverages that employees can purchase at a lower cost by going through their employer, and they’re great because they often don’t cost the employer anything. However, the offerings available may start to include new and different options like pet insurance or group legal plans.
Wellness programs have proven to be effective in helping employees become healthier and more productive. However, offering financial incentives for those who participate has backfired for some employers. Lower amounts seemed to have little effect on behavior, and incentives that were too high seemed to encourage people to try and cheat the system. Instead of money, many employers have instead turned to prizes (often ones that are nominal in value) as rewards for achieving goals or winning competitions.
We keep mentioning financial wellness programs as a key element to helping employees improve their overall wellbeing, and that trend is going to continue in the coming year. When employees have help with things like budgeting or saving for college or retirement, they’re able to take their mind off worrying about those things and better focus on the task at hand. Some employers are also beginning to introduce student loan repayment assistance as part of their benefits package.