Five Key Benefit Areas to Watch for 2020

As we approach 2020, we find that we are headed into another year of vast changes on the employee benefit landscape. Based on our interactions with employers, carriers, and ever-changing regulatory standards, we have put together the five key benefit areas to watch in the coming year.

As we approach 2020, we find that we are headed into another year of vast changes in the employee benefits landscape. Based on our interactions with employers, carriers, and ever-changing regulatory standards, we can only guarantee one thing for the coming year: change.

For our third-annual Looking Ahead Guide, due to come out early next year, several of our Woodruff Sawyer benefits experts weigh in on the challenges we face going into 2020. In this blog post, I will discuss the five key areas to watch for in 2020 and give you a taste of what insights you will find in the Guide.

Beautiful scene of trees near turquoise water of Hintersee lake

1. Elections: Short and Potential Long-Term, Systemic Changes

Our resident compliance expert, Jennifer Chung, Esq., shares that each party has their own view of healthcare reform. Republicans will want to reduce employers' perceived burdens and Democrats want various forms of Medicare for all, but we still need to be on the lookout for what other candidates and parties will bring to the table. In addition, she covers some areas where both parties are aligned and we may see progress in 2020. What we all know is that healthcare is a key focus and the proposals discussed will likely spark “what-if” scenarios for employers as they think about potential short- and longer-term changes.

2. The National Mental Health Crisis Expands

The number of people seeking mental health treatment is skyrocketing while persistent barriers are entrenched. Ryan Meissner and David Erickson explore these issues in our upcoming Guide, citing five persistent issues that keep people from getting the help they need. 

At the top of the list is a lack of qualified mental health providers, a common complaint by employers and employees alike. New solutions are coming to market, including telehealth services, yet uptake on these programs still needs addressing. Time and cost are also ongoing issues, with some providers charging up to $250 per hour, not to mention the stigma attached to mental health treatment.

Mental health, while still an essential part of benefit plans, needs the help of employers to create a supportive, safe environment for employees accessing these benefits. Learn how you can help break through some of today’s treatment barriers and make a positive impact in your organization.

3. Increasing Costs and Price Transparency

A 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits survey estimates that the average employer-sponsored health plan premiums are over $20,000 per year for family coverage. While employers may pay for part of this cost, it is still beyond reach for many working families.

Marc Strickland and Walt Winter outline in our upcoming Guide how employers can save on healthcare costs. Employers provide over half of all health insurance in the US and are recognizing that they must take control of costs and seek new solutions. With the assistance of an experienced broker, reference-based pricing, high value networks, and pharmacy benefit manager audits are just three of the strategies that employers can use to hold the line on costs.

In addition to holding the line on costs, employers and employees need better tools to understand what they will be charged before they seek out a healthcare provider. Dan Hodges explores the topic of price transparency in the Guide, stating that while some providers and healthcare institutions already provide price transparency tools, employees may be unaware or confused about the information available to them. In addition, increasing regulation and costs are driving employers to become more proactive about their employees' healthcare decisions. Learn what some employers are doing with price transparency tools to control costs.

4. Benefits Must Be Tailored to Each Generation

Now that there are five generations in today's workforce, employers must learn not only how to address communication and cultural issues, they must also design a benefits portfolio that is tailored to each generation's needs. How do you create a portfolio that serves the needs of everyone from 17 to 70?

Which generation is in a sandwich, stuck between paying off debt from the past but challenged to save for the future? Which generations are challenged with rising healthcare costs—millennials with new families or baby boomers with chronic illnesses? And finally, which generation is showing a marked increase in the need for vision insurance?  The answer might surprise you, so we look forward to sharing insights and how this can help you in your strategic planning and decision-making

5. Point Solutions Focus on Chronic Issues

Twenty percent (20%) of today's $3.5 trillion healthcare bill is due to complications of diabetes and 60% of the population has more than one chronic condition including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and lung disease. This epidemic requires new solutions and providers and investors are teaming up to provide a new type of focused care: point solutions.

The traditional healthcare model is holistic, focusing on the entire patient's well-being. However, gaps in care result as patients see their primary care physician, who then refers to specialists, and overall depend on an institution's ability to track all care needs. Point solutions can focus on a specific chronic problem, such as diabetes, closely monitoring their diet, blood work, medications, and other treatments that address a single disease. Are point solutions for chronic conditions the cure-all we’ve all been looking for? We explore the topic, including its benefits and challenges.

Stayed Tuned for Carrier Insights

Our Guide takes a deep dive into each of these five subject areas and for the first time, includes insights from carriers we work with. We surveyed their leaders to better understand what they anticipate for 2020. We found that they align with employer concerns in some areas, but also that they have unique, long-term perspectives.

For more in-depth analysis of these issues and the thoughts of our carriers, subscribe to our Woodruff Sawyer newsletter, The Brief, to receive our Employee Benefits Looking Ahead Guide for 2020.


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