Top health program trends for the 2022 business environment

 

With the pandemic disrupting health care utilization and adding stress to employees’ lives, employers are focusing on supporting behavioral health; developing future-focused strategies for virtual health care; and seeking new ways to engage employees whether they are at worksites or remote.


Health benefit cost growth

 

Health benefit cost jumped 6.3% in 2021, and although employers expect a more typical increase of 4.4% in 2022, a number of factors – higher utilization due to “catch-up” care, claims for long COVID, new extremely high-cost cellular drug therapies, and inflation in health care prices – could result in ongoing cost growth acceleration.


A tight labor market

 

In today’s extremely tight labor market, generous health benefits can help tip the scales in attracting and retaining staff. That may help explain why, despite cost growth, employers are not shifting more cost responsibility to employees.


Addressing health inequities

 

Nearly half of all employers with 500 or more employees – and about two-thirds of those with 20,000 or more employees – say that addressing health equity and the social determinants of health will be an important priority over the next 3‑5 years.


Behavioral health is a priority

 

Adding or expanding programs to increase access to behavioral health care is a top-three priority for all employers with 500 or more employees (74% rated it is important or very important) – and it’s the number one priority for employers with 20,000 or more employees (86% rated it important or very important).


Boosting virtual health care

 

Employers are looking to virtual health care as a way to improve access without adding cost. With in-person health care severely limited during the worst of the pandemic, telemedicine got a boost: among employers with 500 or more employees, utilization rates had stagnated at 9% or less, on average, for many years; it jumped to 15% in 2020 and has held at 12% during the first half of 2021.




 2021 Snapshot

 

Despite a spike in health benefit cost growth in 2021, employers are not shifting cost to employees in 2022. Rather, they are focused on supporting their employees’ behavioral health; adding virtual health care solutions for greater convenience and personalization; and seeking new ways to engage employees whether they are at worksites or remote.


Explore the findings

Health benefit cost growth spikes in 2021

Average total health benefit cost per employee Average total health benefit cost per employee

Median individual deductible Median individual deductible

Percentage of covered employees enrolled in account-based consumer-directed health plans Percentage of covered employees enrolled

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