5 Predictions For Employee Benefits In 2022 And Beyond

5 predictions for employee benefits in 2022 and beyond | BenefitsPRO

Source: BenefitsPRO, by Becky Seefeldt

The pandemic and the Great Resignation have created a perfect storm for employers. Employers need to be forward-thinking regarding employee benefits because this crucial feature can make or break a company. As people are less likely to stay at their current positions, they’re also much less interested in applying with any company that doesn’t offer them benefits such as health care or vacation time.

Related: 10 recruiting trends for the years ahead

The future of benefits is uncertain, but there are five predictions for where they’re headed in the next few years that could help employers adjust their current package.

1. A push to improve HSAs

There’s a chance that some common-sense changes could be made to health savings accounts (HSAs). These adjustments will allow those who are eligible for Medicare or Tricare benefits the ability to contribute towards their own HSAs. There’s also interest in revisiting how we define what a “qualified high-deductible plan” entails so as not only to accommodate more Americans but also do away with any unnecessary restrictions altogether.

The solution to this problem is not one-size-fits-all. Some would like the requirement taken away altogether, while others are open to compromise. This may include modifying how high-deductible plans should work so that anyone, even those with limited benefits, can contribute towards an HSA. With these changes, individuals will be able to prepare themselves better because they can use their HSA as needed now or put money away for the future.

2. A convergence of health plan options

For roughly the past 20 years, premiums have been increasing. The average premiums for family coverage have increased from $7,000 in 2001 to more than $22,000 by 2021. Deductibles have also risen, with the average deductible for a PPO rising from $201 in 2001 to nearly $1,700 in 2021. The average deductible is so high that it’s beginning to meet the criteria for a high-deductible health plan. PPOs (and all plans) have been increasing their deductibles, which may indicate convergence between health care and savings options.

The best option for employees can be to utilize these new and improved tools. Some people hesitate to move into a high-deductible health plan because of the name: “high-deductibles.” But, this is an excellent option for certain employees who want more control over their expenses and savings rates if something happens unexpectedly. The contribution and eligibility for an HSA can be adjusted by making a few changes to the PPO design. This way, employees will save more money since they’ll have access to managing their medical expenses, which benefits employers, too!

3. Increased or improved price transparency

Increased or improved price transparency has been on the table for about two decades; however, there is more reason than ever to expect forward progress in this area. First is the No Surprises Act, which protects consumers from being surprised by unexpectedly high bills. This includes air ambulance claims, emergency services, and even non-emergency medical treatments that are billed as out-of-network when performed at an in-network facility. This act establishes limits on what can reasonably be charged and provides dispute resolution between plans and out-of-network providers.

Next, the Transparency in Coverage Act requires plan providers, including employers with group coverage or individuals purchasing their own plan to be transparent about prices and out-of-pocket costs. The start date for this act has been pushed back to July 1, 2022.

4. A move to strengthen health and wellness

When it comes to health and wellness, there are several options available. Help employees identify and address health risks before they result in costly medical procedures. As an employer, you can provide them with more comprehensive management and assistance using digital programs, online counseling services, etc.

Another option is utilizing a “specialty account” that caters to unique needs. This type of pre-tax savings plan has been gaining traction with employers who want to help their employees save money on afterschool programs, fitness classes, or even scooters for commuting purposes.

5. An increase in targeted benefits communications

The final prediction is regarding an increase in targeted benefits communications. With targeted communications on the rise, this trend is just getting started. We live in a world where personalization is everything, and benefits should be no exception. Benefits have traditionally been a data dump that occurs every few weeks in which employees are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. As employees continue to demand more from their employers both digitally and physically, companies must find ways to elevate their offerings. Consumers want personalized everything — from meals at home or takeout to how much information is given about them when they buy something. Why should employee benefit plans be any different?

While the future of benefits is uncertain, employers should be proactive in preparing for changes. Employers need to be forward-thinking regarding employee benefits and stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends. These five predictions offer a glimpse into what could be ahead, so it’s essential to start thinking about how they may impact your organization and employees.

Becky Seefeldt is vice president of strategy at Benefit Resource LLC (BRI), a leading provider of dedicated pre-tax account administration and COBRA services nationwide.

KLAS: Hospitals Say Price Transparency Remains Too Confusing And Pricey To Implement

Hospitals say price transparency pricey to implement

Source: Fierce Healthcare, by Robert King

Hospitals and health systems believe a price transparency rule, while well-intentioned, is far too expensive to implement and is confusing, a new report found.

 

The report released Thursday from the health IT firm KLAS Research underscores major compliance issues surrounding a landmark rule that requires hospitals to post payer-negotiated rates for certain services in an easy-to-understand format. Compliance with the rule has been scattershot since it went into effect last year.

“There are concerns about cost, data accuracy and patient options of pricing tools; some respondents worry about patients’ ability to understand the displayed pricing data, and today, most patients are unaware online pricing information exists,” the report said.

Hospitals must offer clear pricing estimates for at least 300 shoppable hospital services and could face fines for each day of noncompliance.

KLAS spoke with 66 revenue cycle leaders to get a sense of how hospitals feel about the shift towards price transparency and the nuts and bolts of implementing the rule more than a year after its compliance deadline.

“Many hospitals comply only because they are required to by law and because they want to avoid monetary penalties,” the analysis said. “Additionally, organizations struggle to find resources to help with compliance because of the financial burden of investing in a regulation that doesn’t provide a return on investment.”

Throughout 2023, respondents say they are going to have to continually invest in new employees and technology to meet the mandate.

Among those surveyed, 52% said that the rule requires a significant number of resources to comply while 40% put resource requirements at a moderate level and 8% at a small number.

Many of the respondents lashed out at two parts of the rule: the requirement that facilities use machine-readable files for the pricing information and that they put online a master list of rates.

Respondents cited problems with “software used to publish the pricing information. Some say the published rates mainly benefit payer and provider organizations instead of patients.”

 

KLAS also explored how hospitals are looking to comply with the rule.

Third-party vendors were the most popular option, employed by 36% of respondents, while 28% who relied on their electronic medical record vendor. Only 18% relied on internal services and 18% were unsure.

The vendor that respondents most used for help was Epic, used by 16 of the revenue cycle leaders, followed by Experian Health with eight.

“Some who currently use a third party say they will consider moving to their EMR vendor’s platform in the future to further consolidate systems,” KLAS’ report said. “For example, some Epic EMR customers who use a third party for price transparency intend to move to Epic’s offering once it becomes more robust.”

report released back in February showed that one year after the rule’s implementation only 14.5% of hospitals are fully compliant with the rule. CMS has warned more than 300 hospitals about non-compliance.

And more than a year after it went into effect, KLAS’ survey shows that confusion around the rule still reigns.

“Many organizations are not investing beyond the bare minimum requirements, and they don’t plan to do more until there is further clarity around the regulations and the expectations going forward,” KLAS wrote.

Respondents say they don’t know what types of resources are going to be required in the future as “price transparency rules evolve or are interpreted differently.”

Price Transparency Necessary as UnitedHealth Threatens to Pull Out of Insurance Marketplaces

UnitedHealth has warned that it may pull out of the Obamacare exchanges after 2016–forcing more than a half million people to find other coverage. United says that low enrollment and high usage have cost the company millions of dollars. “UnitedHealth Group’s departure would leave consumers with one less option as competition continues to shrink and health care prices continue to rise. Yet, a glance at the company’s third quarter report…showed an increase in revenue of 27% year-over-year to $41.5 billion. This discrepancy is just another reason why transparency in the health insurance industry is so vital,” said Stacey Worthy, director of Public Policy at Aimed Alliance.

The Alliance for the Adoption of Innovations in Medicine (Aimed Alliance) released a report detailing the drivers of health care costs in the United States. The following are key points:

  • Health insurers have engaged in deceptive practices to hide profits.
  • Insurers seek billions in federal aid while premiums and deductibles skyrocket.
  • While consumers pay more for health care, they get less in terms of value and quality.
  • State and federal legislators must enact new laws to prevent the profiteering practices of health insurers.

Not-for-profit insurers have placed billions of dollars in financial reserves, well above the recommended amount, and paid exorbitant CEO compensation packages. They have then massively raised premiums—by 49% in some states—while asking for billions of dollars in financial assistance from the federal government. This type of action is prevalent among the entire industry rather than simply a few offenders.

California Fails in Price Transparency

California gets an F when it comes to consumer’s ability to find information on health care costs. In fact, this information is almost completely unattainable to consumers, according to a report by the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute. Yet recent studies suggest consumers are asking for this information. The five main groups of consumers with a significant interest in price information are those with high-deductible plans, those in plans that promote participants to choose cost-conscious providers, those who are shopping for elective or non-emergency procedures and surgery or shoppable conditions, those who are seeking maternity care and/or routine procedures such as screenings, and those who are under 44.
For more information, visit http://www.catalyzepaymentreform.org/images/documents/2014Report.pdf.

Price Transparency Efforts Miss the Mark

Most health care price transparency initiatives don’t help patients identify the hospitals and physicians that provide high quality care efficiently, according to recent congressional testimony by Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., president of the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

Consumers need meaningful quality data before they decide to choose a lower-cost provider. Perceptions of quality are based largely on reputation among clinicians, but it is by no means clear that a good reputation equates with better outcomes, said Ginsburg. Patients need to know what they will pay if they choose different providers. Employers can change insurance benefit- and network designs to make employees more sensitive to price and shift use of services to higher-value providers. Policy makers can pursue approaches to increase the degree of price competition in the market or regulate prices directly, said Ginsburg. For more information, visit www.hschange.org.

Last Updated 05/25/2022

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