Our Top Six Action Items for Employers in 2018 – Part 2

Last week we posted three of our top six issues for employers in the coming year. Here are three more. Of course, as we pointed out, there will be a lot for employers to respond to in the coming year, between Washington actions and market shifts like the CVS/Aetna merger (in fact we’ll be posting on the implications of tax reform very soon). But you somehow also need to stay focused on moving your program forward. A list always helps.

4. Explore strategies to help employees juggle competing financial priorities.

You’ve likely seen the unsettling finding from a Federal Reserve survey that nearly half of Americans -- 46% -- don’t have enough saved to handle an emergency expense of $400. This has implications for both health program design and employee well-being. Here are three ideas to address the issue:

  • Provide more medical plan choices. Don’t assume two or even three choices are enough. In looking at over a million people covered by Mercer Marketplace 365, our bundled benefits solution, we find a fairly consistent distribution across all the options offered by an employer -- whether it is three or five. In picking a plan, employees consider the trade-offs between paycheck deductions, out-of-pocket risk, expected healthcare use, and provider networks. Yes, more choice makes it more complicated – but people expect choice in everything they buy, and employees will be more satisfied with their health plan selection if they feel they were offered options for a range of financial situations.

  • Provide decision support to help employees compare medical plan options that includes supplemental coverage for hospitalization or accident. They are more likely to take on risk if they see that there are economical options available to help them manage the risk.

  • Incorporate financial tools into your wellbeing program. Mercer’s Talent Trends survey found that nearly half of US employees (48%) want their employers to do more for their health and financial well-being.

5. Take a detailed look at how your paid time off benefits are administered and managed.

Many states and local jurisdictions have implemented requirements that make leave administration and compliance a huge challenge. Efforts are underway in Washington DC to pass legislation that would define a safe harbor for large multi state employers, but it has not happened yet. In the meantime, compliance is required and it’s worth exploring different approaches to make compliance less complex.

6. If you are not sure what your employees want, find out.

There’s a lot of research out there on the interests and expectations of the multigenerational workforce. One could generalize that millennials want everything to be high-tech and navigated from their phone. In fact, it’s not only digital bells and whistles they want. Of the top six services that millennials say they are interested in, three have to do with in-person advice and social support—not technology. Our recent work with clients has revealed some unexpected findings when doing a deeper dive into group-specific data and demographics combined with surveys or focus groups.

This list certainly does not cover everything, but it is a good place to start as you take stock of your current program and expand your goals for the coming year and beyond. And it goes without saying -- we will continue to share ideas with you. Happy New Year!

Tracy Watts
by Tracy Watts

Senior Partner, National Leader for U.S. Health Policy

Register for Mercer US Health News to receive weekly e-mail updates.