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5 Open Enrollment Trends to Watch in 2020

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   September 30, 2020

The Business Group on Health identified five major trends surrounding open enrollment packages heading into 2021.

Two weeks before the start of the open enrollment period for 2021, the Business Group on Health (BGH) identified five major trends surrounding open enrollment packages heading into next year.

Compared to last year's open enrollment trends to watch, the list is relatively similar except for the absence of greater decision support tools.

"Open enrollment is a terrific opportunity for employees to carefully review and evaluate benefits offerings from their employers," Ellen Kelsay, CEO of BGH, said in a statement Tuesday. "It is especially true this year as employees may have adjusted their work routines and daily lives and many employers have enhanced benefits. Many of the enhanced benefits employees can expect to see are in areas that employers had already been investing in, and the pandemic has accelerated, including greater access to virtual care options and mental health services."

Related: Medicare Open Enrollment Begins Oct. 15. Here's What Consumers Need to Know.

Below are the main topics to watch in 2021 based off both conversations with employers and BGH's Large Employers' Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey.

  1. Modest cost increases: BGH suggests that employees may pay more for healthcare benefits, "including premiums and out-of-pocket costs," due to the pandemic. Employers expect to see the total cost of healthcare increase an average of 5% in 2021, with many large employers shouldering nearly 70% of the costs.
  2. More virtual care options: As has been the case throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual care solutions and telehealth services are expected to remain a popular option in 2021. Over half of large employers will offer more virtual care options next year, according to BGH, with many extending virtual options for "weight management, care management for chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, prenatal care, and musculoskeletal care management/physical therapy."

    Related: 6 Open Enrollment Trends to Watch in 2020
  3. Expanded focus on mental health: Employers are expected to continue to move towards offering more behavioral health solutions. Nearly 90% will offer access to "online mental health resources including apps, videos, and webinars," while nearly two-thirds will "provide manager training to help recognize mental health issues and direct employees to appropriate services." In addition to offering services, BGH found that a majority of large employers plan to conduct campaigns to "reduce the stigma that exists related to mental health conditions and treatment."
  4. Growth in on-site clinics: Just over 60% of employers plan to have an on-site clinic in place in 2021, while over one-third of employers that already have an on-site will "bring primary care directly to employees at selected worksites."

    Related: Nearly 8.3M Selected Plans Through HealthCare.Gov
  5. Access to more Centers of Excellence (CoE): More than 80% of employers will have "at least one condition specific CoE" in place in 2021, according to BGH. The most popular procedures included in employer-offered CoEs are bariatric surgery, musculoskeletal conditions, and cancer.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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