No one can see the future, but the past reveals trends to help us more accurately predict what’s to come. Looking back at my 2019 benefit trends blog, my vision for 2019 wasn’t too far off the mark, and 2020 is coming into view more clearly each day.
Hindsight is 2020
In my 2019 benefit trends blog, I expected a greater focus on overall employee well-being encompassing physical, mental, and financial health.
The market saw a high demand for financial and behavioral health services this past year, both from employees who sought support and employers who saw the impact of these issues on their productivity and bottom line.
We also experienced an expansion of telemedicine services, with more interest in virtual access to behavioral health, second opinions, chronic healthcare, and more. Like shopping, entertainment, and even transportation, consumers want healthcare on-demand.
While still a relatively new concept, interest in caregiver support services continues to grow. There’s a rapidly increasing population of aging adults who need some level of assistance, and an equally growing number of caregivers who need help providing it. Caregiver support offers value to everyone involved in the caregiving journey.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture
I believe 2020 will build on the progress we saw in 2019, including expansion of on-demand care, increasing healthcare transparency, and realizing the power of data.
Employers will continue searching for proactive ways to redirect healthcare costs. These strategies should include a holistic approach to overall wellness rather than a myopic one. Benefit strategies including access to behavioral health, advocacy and price transparency, financial coaching and wellness tools, caregiver support, and access to second opinion or co-diagnosis services will most greatly impact employee well-being and employer costs.
Currently, behavioral health services are viewed as significant additions to a benefit package, but still just “nice to have.” As the need for behavioral health support becomes clearer and the workforce becomes more demanding, behavioral health benefits are increasingly becoming a necessity. Organizations can no longer ignore the massive impact poor mental health has on productivity and physical health. Millennials are projected to make up 50% of the workforce in 2020, and Gen Z is just starting to enter the workforce. These younger generations boldly reject the mental health stigma and vocalize their desire for support.
One in five employees double as caregivers, and that number will continue to increase as our population ages. These employees are distracted at work, take more time off, and experience higher levels of stress due to their multitude of responsibilities.
Our understanding of who caregivers are and what support they need continues to increase as well, which is why New Benefits developed a new, robust package of caregiver support services this year. The Caregiver Support bundle provides caregivers with an online platform to store vital documents and track biometrics and medications, communicate with family and other care team members, and manage caregiving responsibilities; a companionship and task assistance service; and a legal document creation service.
Twenty percent of medical cases are misdiagnosed. Not only can these misdiagnoses be life threatening, the cost of unnecessary overtreatment or mistreatment can be enormous. Redirecting just one unnecessary medical procedure can offer incredible value. Virtual access to second opinions and co-diagnosis from world class physicians can make a big impact on both employers and employees. The employee has peace of mind from receiving more education on their options and gaining more control of their healthcare journey, while employers redirect claims and save massive amounts in healthcare spending.
We are still in the infancy of trying to understand how to use healthcare data and analytics to change employee behavior, but the picture data paints becomes clearer each year. 2020 should bring with it a new perspective on harnessing health data to make more informed healthcare decisions and identify valuable benefits.
Pharmacy discounts have unfortunately become too “out of sight, out of mind.” While they might not be the focus of the conversation, likely due to market saturation, they’re still a critical piece of the healthcare puzzle. Beyond increasing price transparency, the future of pharmacy discounts lies in consumer education. We can use these discounts on so much more than people realize: pet medications, fertility drugs, dermatological medications, OTC items written as prescriptions such as vitamins and folic acid, and drugs that typically fall outside the formulary like acid reflux medication. Not to mention, the convenience and cost savings associated with mail order pharmacy should not be overlooked.
Setting our Sights High
As Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” New Benefits is looking ahead with a continued focus on identifying new, innovative benefits and tools to deliver transparency, healthcare savings, and advocacy to our members. Our technology development roadmap will continue to include features to engage members, provide pricing transparency where possible, and guide members to the best solutions for their individual needs.
The benefits market is always changing, and possibly even more so in an election year. But you won’t see us hiding our heads in the sand. Our eyes are open, and we’re looking toward 2020 with excitement and commitment to providing the highest quality services and support to our clients and members. Happy New Year!