Published by Trustmark Voluntary Benefits on October 11th, 2018

Every year, the Kaiser Family Foundation releases an extensive look at the healthcare landscape in their Employer Health Benefits Survey. The survey usually turns up several interesting insights into what’s going on in the world of insurance and healthcare that can help spur a new way of looking at the challenges of our industry. This year’s survey was just released last week and, to save you time, we’ve pulled out three findings that we think offer a noteworthy perspective on what’s happening in the insurance world.

1.    The cost shift continues

The trend of cost shifting is nothing new, as employees are being asked to shoulder more and more of the cost of their healthcare. However, we usually consider this number in a vacuum. We look at the amount employees are paying and note that the amount is increasing. This lacks a little bit of context as it ignores influencing factors such as inflation or pay increases. 

This year’s Kaiser Family Foundation study noted not just that the amount being paid by employees is increasing, but that it is increasing by a fairly significant amount in relation to increases in wages. According to the study, the average single policyholder premium increased 3 percent and the average family premium increased 5 percent over the last year. In that same time period, workers’ wages increased just 2.6 percent. Premiums are on the rise and, especially for families, they’re certainly growing faster than increases in wages.

2.    How are employers handling health and wellness?

The prevalence of health and wellness plans has grown over the years, especially with larger organizations. However, digging deeper, what may be more important to consider is what employers are doing with their programs. The study identified three key features amongst companies offering a wellness program.
  • Health and Wellness Promotion Programs – 82 percent of large firms and 53 percent of smaller firms offer programs to help identify health risks and unhealthy behaviors along with solutions to improve on those risks and behaviors.
  • Health Risk Assessments – 62 percent of large firms and 37 percent of small firms gather data on their employees’ medical history, health status and lifestyle.
  • Biometric Screenings – 50 percent of large firms and 21 percent of small firms provide workers the with an in-person health examination to measure risk factors, body mass index, cholesterol plod pressure, stress and nutrition.

Incentives are also an important feature with employers offering rewards or, in some cases, penalties for participation (or non-participation) in the various program features. 

3.    Availability of benefits may not always be straightforward

A final area that is worth noting is the availability of benefits to employees. At first glance, it may seem that benefits are the norm and they are commonly available. In total, 90 percent of workers are employed by a firm that offers health benefits to at least some of its workers. That’s in large part due to the fact that the majority of workers are employed at larger companies, which are much more likely to offer coverage. On the other side of the spectrum, just 47 percent of very small firms (3 to 9 workers) offer coverage.

For firms offering coverage, it doesn’t always mean that every employee is eligible. The study found that 79 percent of workers at companies offering healthcare benefits are eligible for those benefits. Some companies also offer incentives for employees not to enroll in their benefits and either seek healthcare coverage elsewhere (16 percent offer an incentive) or seek healthcare through a spouse’s plan (13 percent offer an incentive). The end result is that only 60 percent of workers who are offered healthcare through their employer actually enroll.

Staying on top of the latest industry trends is a key part of success for brokers, carriers and employers alike. As always, this year’s study provided plenty of great insight. While many of the trends noted in the study aren’t new, they provide a valuable checkpoint to see where the market is headed. 

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey.