As the 2023 group health open enrollment season nears, more employers have heard concerns among their staff and are focusing on affordability and easier access to health care services, according to a new study.
Mercer's "Health & Benefit Strategies for 2023" study, which surveyed more than 700 employers, found that more than two-thirds of businesses are planning to improve their health benefit options to better compete for talent.
The survey found that 70% of all large employers were planning benefit enhancements for 2023. While small employers are somewhat less likely to be planning enhancements, still more than half (53%) say that they are.
One in five employers said they would put a special emphasis on improving benefits for low-wage and unskilled workers, while two-thirds said they planned to focus on all employees. The biggest concern among employers is the increasing costs that employees have to shoulder for their health benefits.
Employers are starting to realize that a high-deductible health plan with an attached health savings account is not a good fit for all of their employees. In fact, the high-deductibles have been blamed for saddling an increasing amount of U.S. workers with more medical debt.
Tackling affordability issue
Businesses are taking different approaches to tackling the affordability issue, both on the front end in terms of premiums or the back end in the form of out-of-pocket expenses. Mercer found that:
Find out what they want
But just improving benefits or adding benefits without consulting staff can backfire. It's important employers understand their employees' needs before embarking on changes to their benefits.
"When it comes to retaining talent, taking a standard approach to benefit design is almost guaranteed to come up short," Mercer writes.
Mercer also notes that employees are more concerned these days about having the right lifestyle fit at their employer, so employers should take into account differences in their employees' lifestyles.
Here's what employers are doing to get the answers they need:
If you are pinched for resources, Mercer notes that offering your staff greater flexibility in their benefits and better targeting communications about their benefits can be the way to go.
Flexibility can be as simple as supporting a work-life balance and giving them the option for flexible hours so they can run errands or tend to family issues like dentist or pediatric care appointments.
Flexibility can encompass a wide range of benefits. Here's what Mercer found that employers offer or plan to offer in 2023: