More coverage for virtual doctors’ visits. Expanded mental health benefits. Access to on-site health clinics.
As employees sign up for job-based coverage for 2021, they’ll find the coronavirus pandemic has changed some of the benefits that their companies are providing, experts said.
And premiums and out-of-pocket costs are expected to increase about 5%, which is more than wages and inflation have been rising, according to the Business Group on Health, which surveys large companies. Employers will absorb much, if not all, of the increase for many employees.
This bump comes on top of a 4% increase in premiums this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual employer health benefits survey. In 2020, the average annual premiums hit nearly $7,500 for single coverage and $21,500 for family coverage. Of that cost, workers pay $1,250 for individual policies and nearly $5,600 for family coverage, on average.
Deductibles stayed roughly the same at about $1,650 for a single person, Kaiser found.
One of the biggest changes for 2021 will be a growth in the number and types of virtual care options, said Steve Wojcik, the group’s vice president of public policy. Employers had long offered telehealth, but few of their staffers actually used it.
The pandemic changed all that. Utilization soared as Americans sought medical care from the safety of their homes.
Some 53% of large employers will offer more virtual care options next year, the group found. And they are extending the services to weight management, prenatal care and management of chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Coronavirus, as well as the accompanying economic upheaval, has also greatly affected many Americans’ mental health. Companies plan to bolster their support and make employees more aware of the offerings available to them, said Mark Hope, senior director at Willis Towers Watson.
Some 45% of large employers are planning to work with their insurers to expand mental health provider networks, according to the Business Group on Health report.
Some 91% of large employers said they would offer virtual mental health services in 2021, up from 73% in 2019. And 65% said they would provide virtual emotional well-being services next year, up from 45% in 2019.
And nearly nine in 10 employers will offer access to online mental health resources, including apps, videos and webinars.
Meanwhile, 61% of employers plan to have an on-site clinics, which can provide coronavirus testing, in addition to basic health services. This ticked up from 58% this year.