Employers are diversifying their benefit offerings in 2021 with enrollment in high-deductible health plans (HDHPS) and voluntary benefits such as income product plans increasing, according to a study from benefits technology platform.
Benefitfocus Inc.’s “State of Employee Benefits 2021” report, based on 3.5 million benefit enrollments, found that:
- Employers are expanding benefit packages to address the diverse needs of a multi-generational workforce. Nearly three quarters of large employer groups offered a mix of traditional health plans (PPOs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2021, moving away from single health plan strategies. Voluntary benefit offerings continued to expand to supplement core coverage and provide greater flexibility and choice.
- Employee health plan premiums saw moderate growth as employers took on more of the cost burden in 2021. While employee health plan premiums saw only a slight increase from 2020 to 2021, employers are paying more as a percentage of the total premium in 2021.
- HDHPs are catching up to traditional PPOs in popularity among employees. PPOs are still the health plan of choice among employees, but HDHPs have grown in popularity across the board, with participation up 30% since 2018.
- Consumer-directed health care accounts appeal to younger employees. Since 2018, the percentage of Generation Z with a health savings account (HSA) has more than doubled. Gen Zers, Millennials and Gen Xers are upping HSA contributions by 10% or more in 2021.
- Supplemental benefits gained significant traction among employees. Over the past four years, employee participation in hospital indemnity plans has more than doubled and increased by 13% in 2021 alone. Participation in both critical illness and accident plans has grown by 65% or more since 2018 as well.
“The State of Employee Benefits provides a clear picture of how employers maintained their strategic focus on employee engagement and controlling health care costs,” said John Thomas, chief data officer for Benefitfocus, in a press release. “It also highlights, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, how employers are approaching benefit plan design, offering more consistency in workforce benefits planning and better addressing employees' total well-being.”
Marta Turba, WorldatWork’s vice president of content management, encourages employers to consider broadening their benefits offerings to help employees address COVID-exascerbated problems. That would include expanding health coverage for medical recovery from the pandemic, such as catch-up for routine services missed during the pandemic, and addressing such pandemic-related problems as obesity, depression, stress and complications because of delayed care. Also consider expanding family-related benefits, such as child and elder care-related assistance and relationship counseling.
For the report, Charleston, S.C.-based Benefitfocus aggregated, anonymized and analyzed 3.5 million actual enrollment records from nearly 350 large employer customers (1,000-plus employees).
Based on its analysis of the compiled data, the Benefitfocus report concluded: "There was a clear trend upward for expanding benefit offerings as a way to differentiate in a competitive job market leading up to 2020. If anything, employers took a more paternalistic approach in 2021, continuing to offer more benefits and absorbing health plan cost increases to keep things consistent for employees. At the same time, employees took more advantage of savings opportunities and income protection."