As workplace demographics continue to shift, companies can leverage new technologies to make healthcare offerings more accessible.
By Dan Thompson
Employee benefits have evolved significantly over recent years from basic offerings such as health insurance and paid time off, to more holistic and personalized packages that address the needs of the modern workforce. This evolution has been driven by a number of factors including demographic changes, the uncertain economy, and the increasing importance of employee well-being.
The State of the Industry
With demand at an all-time high, there are a handful of new benefits that have gained traction and even become industry standards within the last decade. Mental health offerings are at the top of this list, as it becomes more common to openly address these types of issues. There has also been an emphasis on financial counseling, 401K planning, budgeting, and even pet insurance plans.
While initiatives like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have created new opportunities for employees to access fair healthcare, the average employee continues to make less than what it costs the business to cover their health insurance policy. The ACA has directly impacted how small and medium-sized businesses operate when providing health insurance benefits, leading to a supply-and-demand issue in markets with few carriers in which the rates are often significantly higher.
This pendulum between what employers are offering and what employees are actually making isn’t getting any smaller as insurance companies’ focus for the past 30 years has been on quantity rather than quality. But this appears to be changing as millennials begin to make up the majority of the workforce.
So, how do the new workforce demographics impact the healthcare and employee benefits landscape?
The Difference is in Demographics
The older working generations (48- to 64-year-olds) remain the key demographic for health insurance benefits and file the majority of claims. They want the supplemental perks to help pay the deductible, access quality medical care, and maximize their 401K — especially for those who have been out of the workforce and are looking to catch up. Younger generations are much more interested in new and more diverse offerings, even at a greater expense or decreased quality of care.
In this climate, employers asking the benefits companies the right questions is key. Knowing the difference in the size of the deductible relative to the employee’s income indicates whether the plan is right for the individual.
So what is the future of healthcare and benefits?
Older generations (48- to 64-year-olds) remain the key demographic for health insurance benefits—they seek the supplemental perks to help pay the deductible, access quality medical care, and maximize their 401K. Younger generations are much more interested in new and more diverse offerings, even at a greater expense.
New Approach to Healthcare
Employers and providers are already using data and artificial intelligence to transform care and benefits, but over the coming years, more innovative technology solutions are going to continue to make healthcare more accessible.
Perhaps the most obvious way that AI can better the industry is through administrative efficiencies, automating many of the tasks associated with providing healthcare. This frees up doctors to focus on patient care and can allow insurance companies to reduce costs long-term.
Personalized medicine and predictive analytics are other areas that are going to see more advancement in the coming years, allowing providers to develop stronger initiatives around preventative care as well as identify trends and patterns to develop public health programs that can improve the well-being of entire populations.
There will be a number of new challenges likely to accompany these technological advancements, but by working together, employers, insurance companies, and healthcare providers can use data and AI to transform the way that healthcare is provided.
Dan Thompson is chief benefits officer at Vensure Employer Solutions.