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Expanding Care Choices Ranks as Top Priority for Employers

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   June 24, 2019

Nearly one-third of employers say expanding benefit options is the top priority over the next three years, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey.

The top priority over the next three years for employers is expanding care choices for employees, but more than half admit they lack effective listening strategies to do so, according to a Willis Towers Watson (WTW) survey released Monday morning.

One-fifth of employers selected enhancing healthcare navigation as their top priority in the short-term, followed by enhancing the workplace environment and providing benefit decision tools to assist with employee choices.

Three-quarters of employers said they are focusing on providing employees with the necessary information and resources to make appropriate choices regarding their health benefits, according to WTW's 2019 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey.

Still, only 55% of employers responded that they offer those same tools currently. 

Employers are also split on how confident they are that the resources they provide to employees are useful in making decisions about their health benefits.

Related: Employers Leaning Toward High-Performance Networks, ACOs to Improve Care Access

Catherine O’Neill, senior director of health benefits strategy at WTW, told HealthLeaders that the survey shows employers dealing with the ongoing challenge of providing expansive care options to a diverse workforce.

She also said that given how tight the labor market is currently, employers are looking to attract talented workers with an affordable healthcare coverage package that meets the criteria for cost and care.

"I think choice is important, but there has to be that support system of communication and technology to help employees make the right decision," O'Neill said. "If employers are not going to invest in that side, then the choice is not meaningful."

Related: Health System CEOs More Concerned With Growth Than Costs

Less than 30% of employers reported offering a "holistic approach" to improving the employee experience, though nearly 60% expect to promote financial education regarding 401(k) financial planning and health savings accounts in the next three years.

When asked what was impeding the ability to improve the employee experience, 59% of employers cited budget constraints. Following close behind were concerns about a lack of price transparency as well as administrative technology flexibility.

Related: Medical Cost Trend Expected to Rise in 2020

O'Neill said that while only 31% of employers reported providing technology solutions to employees for benefit decision support, such as through mobile apps, nearly twice as many employees plan on offering that capability by 2022.

"There's a need for technology at the time for enrollment and there's a technology need at the time of using the plan; I think both of those things are important," O'Neill said.

She added that while the technological component may not be a feasible option for all employers, they could still promote education communication, simplification of products, and decision support and navigation.

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

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