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Open enrollment is done for the year. Now it’s time to start looking at how you can best meet your clients’ needs in 2022. Catch your breath during the first few weeks of January, then start researching ways to improve everything from your services to the products you offer. Do it all with an eye on the top employee health and wellness concerns of 2022.

Managed Healthcare Executive published a piece in November 2021 discussing top health and well-being trends among employees for 2022. Their insights are worth considering in preparation for offering new products and services.

1. Integration of Virtual Health

Much of what employees view about health and wellness moving forward has been influenced by the coronavirus crisis. The impact COVID has had on employees has been so profound that we have put together a separate blog post to discuss it. That notwithstanding, the coronavirus crisis has forced virtual healthcare to the forefront of service delivery.

Employees not only want virtual healthcare options, but they also now expect them. Their biggest concern for 2022 is full integration between virtual health and in-person care. Employees do not want to choose between one or the other. They want their plans to offer both in a way that is seamless and easy to utilize.

2. More Mental Health Options

COVID shutdowns only added to what was already a stressful situation. In the aftermath, greater numbers of employees are expressing a need for mental health services. Thankfully, insurance carriers have already started to respond. They are offering employers a larger selection of products aimed at expanding mental health and emotional wellness options.

Extending mental health benefits beyond employees, to help reach their families as well, is another idea worth exploring. According to the CDC, the number of children receiving emergency care for mental health issues rose significantly between 2019 and 2020. Additional data shows that the crisis has only been exacerbated by COVID. Any benefits that can help employees meet their children's mental health needs would be welcome.

Meanwhile, employers can also get involved in community mental health initiatives. The Illumination Fund's Arts & Mental Health program offers a clear example. Based in New York City, the Arts & Mental Health program seeks to distribute grant money to local organizations working in their communities to improve mental health.

3. Equitable Access

Another serious concern heading into the new year is equitable access. More than ever before, consumers are realizing that unequal access to medical care means some employees are not receiving the appropriate care to manage chronic conditions. Consumers are also noticing a disparity in how different groups access care for major medical issues, like cancer. They want to see more equitable access in the coming year.

The CDC defines health equity as a scenario in which every person has the opportunity to maximize good health. It is a scenario in which no one is found at a disadvantage, in terms of accessing and utilizing healthcare, by social or economically determined factors.

In light of that, the Biden administration announced in late December 2021 a proposed rule that would make it easier for Americans to find affordable health insurance in the coming year. The proposed rule is designed to bolster existing provisions created by the Affordable Care Act. If the rule is adopted, it would give insurance carriers greater flexibility and additional opportunities to offer more affordable plans.

AHIP says that health insurance carriers are getting involved, too. In a piece recently posted on their website, they say that insurance carriers have been working with government officials to come up with ways to provide more accessible healthcare free from discriminatory barriers. They have even been doing their part to get as many people as possible vaccinated against COVID.

4. A Greater Emphasis on Value

Consumers have heard enough about the fee-for-service model over the last 10 years that they have had enough of it. They want healthcare services that offer both quality and value. Furthermore, they know that the cost of health insurance will continue to climb year after year. In exchange for paying more money, employees expect more value and the quality they believe they deserve.

According to a 2021 Access One healthcare survey, 71% of consumers would actively "shop around for care to get the most value for their healthcare dollar." Some 36% of respondents indicated they have already done so. They have proved that value is a top concern.

As for what constitutes better value, a 2017 report from University of Utah Health reveals what consumers consider the greatest value propositions in healthcare. As you might expect, quality of care is the number one value proposition. It was followed by total cost, out-of-pocket cost, timely scheduling, and provider expertise. In retrospect, value in healthcare is no different than value in any other area, from the consumer's perspective.

5. General Employee Well-Being

COVID has made people painfully aware of the fact that the way Americans work is not necessarily conducive to general well-being. For example, working remotely during the pandemic has made it clear to some that going into the office every day is not necessarily the best choice. Sometimes, staying home and avoiding all the hassles of commuting makes for a more productive and less stressful day.

According to our own Scott Kirksey, many are making their thoughts known with their feet in what is being called the Great Resignation. Those employers who generally desire to retain top talent should not only begin thinking about ways to improve general well-being through both benefits packages and changing the work environment, but they should also put things in overdrive – before it's too late.

6. Active Employee Input

Finally, it is becoming increasingly apparent that employees want more active input into everything from benefits packages to workplace policies. They no longer want to be mere recipients of executive fiats. They want a place at the table, helping to make decisions that affect everyone in the company.

According to the Young Entrepreneur Council, employees want leadership that listens. They are excited about going to work for companies that encourage them to offer their input, then do their best to accommodate what they hear. The Council insists that listening to employee input is an instrumental part of creating a company culture that is positive and motivating.

As an insurance broker, some of the health and wellness concerns that need addressing in the coming year are clearly outside the scope of your business. But services you can provide, such as virtual health integration, mental health benefits, voluntary, and non-medical offerings should be priorities in the coming months. Remember that your clients are depending on you to come through. You have the knowledge and expertise to craft benefits plans capable of meeting changing needs.