6 emerging open enrollment trends for 2020

Virtual care and decision support tools figure prominently in large employers’ plans to improve care quality and access.

6 emerging open enrollment trends for 2020

Employers are also being impacted by the shift to value-based care, and some of those changes are being reflected in the benefits they’re offering to employees for 2020. The National Business Group on Health, using data from its annual Large Employer Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey to outline six key trends that employees can expect to see in their open enrollment packages. And increasingly, information technology will be a key to delivering these evolving benefits to employees.

“While most large employers are not planning major changes to their plan design, they continue to increase efforts to improve quality, access and convenience by providing workers more plan choices and greater access to virtual care solutions and mental health services,” says Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “More employers are providing decision support tools and technology to simplify their employees’ experience and help them navigate the healthcare system.”

Here are six trends identified for the upcoming open enrollment season.

Modest cost increases

Large employers expect the total cost of health benefits for covering employees and their dependents to rise by 5 percent in 2020, to an average of $15,375. That includes premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Even so, the rise in total healthcare costs will outstrip wage growth and overall economic growth.

More health plan choices

Employers are re-introducing choice, largely driven by employee feedback for more plan options. This reverses a trend of previous years, when large employers reduced the number of plan choices—moving employees into high-deductible plans that can be paired with a health savings account. In 2018, 39 percent of employers surveyed by NBGH only offered high-deductible plans; by contrast, 2020, only 25 percent of employers will offer high-deductible plans as their only option.

Additional virtual care options

Most employers will offer employees virtual care beyond those traditionally offered through telehealth to help improve access and enhance employee experience. In fact, some 51 percent of employers responding to the survey say their top healthcare initiative for 2020 is to implement more virtual care solutions, leading all other initiatives. Some 13 percent of respondents said the virtual care will have a very significant impact that will revolutionize how care is delivered in the future, while 50 percent believe it will have a significant impact.

NBGH’s survey suggests that 82 percent will provide mental health services to employees virtually. In addition, about 60 percent will provide weight management programs virtually. Digital solutions for musculoskeletal care management, prenatal care and coaching, sleep management, diabetes management and cardiac care management show the greatest potential for growth over the next several years.

Great access to decision support tools

More than three out of four employers (78 percent) plan to offer medical decision support tools and second opinion services. In addition, 73 percent of employers say they plan to offer virtual solutions to help with claims assistance. About 60 percent of employers say they will offer full-service, high-touch concierge programs that help employees navigate the healthcare system, reflecting the need to simplify the consumer experience.

Expansion of mental health benefits

Almost half of large employers will conduct campaigns next year to reduce the stigma that exists around mental health conditions and treatment. More employers will offer online resources (69 percent); manager training to help them better recognize mental health issues (47 percent); onsite mental health counselors (33 percent); and digital cognitive behavioral therapy for mental health issues (28 percent).

Increased focus on quality

Employers are increasing their focus on healthcare quality and value by a variety of strategies, including the use of Centers of Excellence (COE), high performance networks and advanced primary care strategies. More than one in four large employers (27 percent) will expand their COE offerings to address additional conditions or procedures, including orthopedics. In fact, nearly half of large employers will have COEs for musculoskeletal conditions in place next year. In addition, more employers are turning to COE models for fertility and maternity programs. Many employers are expanding the use of incentives to boost employee use of COEs, the NBGH polling shows.

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