January 2, 2018

4 Employee Benefits Trends to Watch in 2018

2018 is already shaping up to be a year of change in healthcare and benefits. The tax reform bill is likely to affect the ACA, hospital groups are merging to better negotiate pricing with carriers and payers, and PBMs are consolidating with carriers, too. You can bet these industry-wide changes will impact employee benefits next year.

Artemis Health keeps an eye on how industry trends will affect our customers, which include self-insured employers, brokers, consultants, hospitals, and other partners. What will 2018 bring to our little corner of the health and wellness industry? Here are a few trends we’ll be watching in 2018.

Formulary Management

Rx claim costs continue to rise for many reasons:

We know, we know: working with your PBM is easier said than done. But we expect increasing pressure from payers to encourage transparency at PBMs in the coming year. If we’re lucky, perhaps scrutiny around mergers will also lead to policy changes in the industry.

Financial Wellness Initiatives

Employers have long offered assistance with retirement savings. In 2018, we expect to see benefit offerings expanding to include a broader look at financial wellness. These programs could include educational classes on personal finance, asset management, debt reduction, and more. As Forbes reported earlier this year, 84% of the 141 large employers they surveyed now offer some sort of financial wellness programming.

Why now? What’s spurring this trend? Employee stress. 53% of employees surveyed by PwC reported feeling stressed about their personal finances. These folks are distracted at work, are more likely to be absent, and are more likely to experience stress-related health conditions.

Employers are in a unique position to help combat their workers’ financial woes through student-loan repayment benefits, retirement savings contributions, bonus structures, and financial education. We expect more and more companies to utilize benefit programs like these to attract and retain talent, and encourage wellness in their employee populations.

Chronic Disease Management

Artemis CEO Grant Gordon wrote back in July on the trend of employers becoming “patient advocates,” helping their members get the most from their health and Rx benefits. One big piece of this is helping patients manage chronic illnesses like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lung disease, and more.

The National Council on Aging reports that over 2/3rds of national healthcare dollars spent are on chronic diseases. Employers bear these costs for their members, and they want to find ways to save money while improving health outcomes. Enter chronic disease management programs. A number of vendors provide these services for employees, and they include:

  • Assistance with scheduling appointments, doctor communication, and medications
  • Educational classes on nutrition, exercise, medication use, and emotional health
  • Regular checkups and tests to monitor progress
  • Coordinating care across providers

We’re seeing more and more employers using chronic disease management vendors to help their employees lead healthier, happier lives.

Better Data & Better Decision Making

Finally, we’re seeing a clear trend in employer demand for benefits data, and we expect this to heat up in 2018. Employers want to explore trends, find cost drivers, identify solutions, and measure the success of their benefit initiatives.

All of this means better decision making. Benefits professionals are no longer willing to take a chance on a new program or roll out a new initiative unless they back it up with data. The costs are too high for experimentation. Artemis Health is committed to helping employers make great decisions using data, and we’re excited to do it even better in 2018.

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