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Shifting Trends and Priorities Demand New Solutions

What do a Hollywood celebrity and a health care-providing employer have in common? They both need to stay up to date with the latest trends to stay relevant. 
In an era when health trends have the power to shape what employees expect, employers must stay informed so that they may continue providing the benefits options that their workers actually need. 
In 2015, we witnessed constant change in the health care industry, and it’s no secret that 2016 will follow the same pattern. Smart employers know what workers want to see in their benefits package: health care benefits that meet their unique needs and won’t break their budget. Here are what the best workplaces will take note of in 2016. 

Voluntary Insurance Strategy is Shifting

According to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, insurance deductibles have outpaced the average increase in workers’ wages.
Among covered workers with a general annual deductible, the average deductible amount for single coverage was $1,318 in 2015. That figure is similar to the previous year’s average annual deductible of $1,217, but is a jump from the $917 average annual deductible in 2010. 
Looking at the increase in deductible amounts over time does not capture the full impact for workers because the share of covered workers in plans with a general annual deductible also has increased significantly, from 55 percent in 2006 to 70 percent in 2010 to 81 percent in 2015. When we examine the change in deductible amounts for all covered workers (assigning a zero value to workers in plans with no deductible), we can look at the impact of both trends together. Using this approach, the average deductible for all covered workers in 2015 was $1,077. This is a 67 percent increase from $646 in 2010 and a 255 percent jump from $303 in 2006.
Essentially, coverage is costing the typical consumer more than they earn at work.
The changing financial climate forces employees to prioritize what care they can afford, leaving many in danger of an unexpected problem resulting in major debt. This is where supplemental coverage comes to the rescue. If employers offer it, employees who feel they may be at risk can apply for cost-effective benefits coverage that could help bail them out in these sticky situations. This way, employees won’t have to skimp on care when they need it most. As workers continue to cut corners financially, employers need to show them that their needs matter by paying extra attention to how they can get more bang for their buck when it comes to health care coverage.

Focus on Needs of Millennials 

People can’t stop talking about millennials — and there’s a good reason why. Millennials, the group of Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, are the largest generation in the United States, representing one-third of the total U.S. population in 2013. Knowing this, employers must keep this generation top-of-mind.
Here are a few things employers should know about millennials and workplace benefits.
» Millennials want to spend money efficiently. Health care plans that provide high-value services at low cost will appeal to millennials seeking out insurance. Many millennials are balancing student loan debt on top of other expenses, so employers should aim to choose a plan that acknowledges these unique financial circumstances.
» Millennials need their employee benefits to fit their lifestyle. This generation is more than just a group of young people glued to their phones. They are students, mothers, fathers and full-time employees. Due to the variety of life stages millennials are going through, it is important that employers offer benefits tailored to the specific needs of each worker. A first-time mom will need a different plan from that of a recent college graduate who is working full-time in a new city. 
» Millennials consider technology to be a staple. Due to the technology boom in the health care sector, millennial policyholders expect an almost instantaneous response when they make an insurance claim. Health care providers continue to adapt to changing technology trends by integrating new products and platforms into their claim processes. Technology can make the claim filing process as easy as possible. Finding a provider that uses tech-friendly products will make employers seem knowledgeable and keep millennials happy.
As a generation that is quickly making up a majority of the workforce, millennials are expecting their needs to be acknowledged and met. By considering the lifestyle, technological and budget concerns of millennials, employers can better appeal to this expanding group. 

Convenient Doctor Visits

With the increasing convenience of benefits materials and claims, employees are now also expecting doctors to come to them. A number of physicians are getting out of their office — not to make house calls, but to make cubicle calls. These on-site doctors and clinics are a growing trend in workplace wellness because of their convenience, and smart employers are taking note.
The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, in its 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey, revealed that providing employees with access to medical care at the workplace cultivates productivity, enhances a company’s reputation as being a desirable place to work and reduces health care costs. These outcomes should be an employer’s main goals for a happy workplace and happy employees.

Increased Vacation Days

Offering employees extended time off is another trend that business owners are seeing across the board.  With so many parents of young children in the workforce and so many employees engaged in activities outside of work,  companies are supporting the efforts by allowing “floating” birthday or work anniversary holidays — one or two days per year that employees may use as they see fit. This allows employees to balance their work and family lives by taking an extra day off that is still paid by their employer. 
As companies plan for the year ahead, they must tailor the benefits they offer employees to what’s trending — and what employees need. By getting creative and listening to what workers want, employers will be armed and ready. 

Drew Niziak joined Aflac in January 2013 in his current position as senior vice president of Aflac broker sales. Drew may be contacted at drew. [email protected] .

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