Survey: Virtual Care and Mental Health Driving Benefits Decisions

September 1, 2020

The U.S. healthcare system has been ready for a major paradigm shift for years. And because healthcare and health insurance are so closely related, any the shift in delivery will lead to a shift in payment. The shift is now happening thanks to the emerging effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Business Group on Health's (BGH) annual healthcare strategy survey clearly shows that both virtual care and mental health are driving future benefits decisions. From large corporations to mid-size businesses, employers are planning to adapt their healthcare benefits to more closely align with the needs and practical aspects of the new healthcare environment created by COVID-19.

As a benefits professional, you need to be aware of the role virtual care and mental health will play in determining what types of benefits packages will be offered in 2021 and beyond. Remember that information is your best friend as you steer clients toward better benefits.

Virtual Care and Telehealth

According to the BGH survey, employers expect health insurance costs to go up more than 5% for 2021. They expect to pay in excess of $15,500 per employee. Not surprisingly, 80% say that telehealth will play a bigger role in how healthcare services are delivered. As a result, they believe higher costs for virtual care will lead to higher insurance premiums.

COVID-19 forced our healthcare system to embrace telehealth in full force. And now that it has happened, turning back the clock is highly unlikely. Telehealth and other virtual technologies make hospitals and private practices more efficient and more profitable. They reduce overhead and payroll. So expect more virtual care options through the end of the year and into 2021.

For employers, adapting benefits packages for 2021 requires at least a fundamental understanding of where virtual care is headed. They need access to health insurance packages that provide coverage for telehealth visits, app-based health care services, wearable devices, and more.

Mental Health Services

The BGH survey also reveals that mental health is on the radar for 2021. This should be no surprise, given how stressful the COVID-19 pandemic has been. Employers are coming to terms with the fact that employee mental health affects the bottom line. If they want to keep things running smoothly moving forward, they need to invest in mental health services through their benefits packages.

Services include everything from treatments and therapies to wellness programs that promote good mental health. Employers are also being encouraged by mental health experts to start the conversation among employees. The idea is to encourage them to be more mindful of mental health and to report when they or coworkers are having problems.

Bringing It Back Home

In closing this post, we want to touch on one more fascinating statistic from the BGH survey: some 72% of large employers say they either have an on-site health clinic in place or plan to have one within the next three years. Furthermore, 34% already offer primary care services on-site; 26% plan to offer on-site primary care by 2023.

How this plays into virtual care is not clear. But it is easy to see how on-site clinics could offer mental health services. Rather than sending employees to local private practices or hospitals, they can be referred to on-site clinics capable of providing the same level of care at a lower price.

Healthcare delivery is changing at an accelerated pace thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, healthcare is on the verge of a paradigm shift. Help your clients stay ahead of pending changes by keeping them informed and advising them of new products and services.

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