A Look Ahead: 2021 Predictions for HR

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The past year has really illuminated the complexities of the healthcare system, especially when it comes to determining coverage, administering benefits and decoding options. HR teams were tasked with not only administering benefits, but also navigating new regulations, like the CARES act, that impacted their personnel.

The immense changes brought about due to the COVID-19 pandemic and move to remote work has also forced HR to get more strategic when it comes to their employee health and benefit offerings. A focus on productivity and overall wellbeing has taken point across many organizations this year and the strategies put in place to support the workforce will likely become the standard.

Here’s a look at what changed in 2020.

Mental health in the workplace took the spotlight.
The move to remote work forced many employers to get serious about breaking the stigma around mental health in the workplace and take steps to address mental wellbeing for their employees. Prior to the pandemic, only 20% of employers offered telehealth. Today, nearly 70% of employers now offer these services, and that number is expected to continue to increase as we head into 2021.

More employers started offering or promoting virtual healthcare.
Virtual services gave members safer and more cost-effective access to care, from mental health to second opinions. According to data we collected last year, 49% of Americans had never used an online portal or app to connect with a doctor. A recent FAIR health report found that the usage of telehealth increased more than 8,335% in April 2020 (compared to April 2019) as more patients chose to access virtual health services during the pandemic. Additional data shows that 80% of employers said that telehealth will play a significant role in how care is delivered in the future, including mental health.

The lack of healthcare cost transparency only become more apparent.
Surprise bills (unfortunately) aren’t new news, but the pandemic shed light on just how confusing costs can be for employers and individuals alike.Many of the major carriers waived certain COVID-19-related treatment costs through June. However, studies are showing that surprise bills are still popping up for patients seeing specialists or getting out-of-network care as well as higher insurance premiums.

Member education strategies became critical.
Recent data shows that only 12% of Americans have proficient healthcare literacy, highlighting a huge gap in benefits that are available to employees and how they’re marketed. From ensuring members knew about their healthcare access options to understanding the regulatory changes that impacted benefits and access to care, HR teams were a critical point of contact for benefits support and resources.

So what’s in store for us this year?

As chaotic as the past year has been, the trends we’re seeing across company cultures are likely to remain standard strategies in an effort to control costs and promote a focus on employee wellbeing.

Employer-sponsored plans are here to stay, but the delivery model is changing.
As the price of healthcare continues to rise, many employers are looking for ways to manage costs without stripping benefits. We’ll likely see the demand for self-funded benefits increase alongside an appetite for alternative cost management strategies, such as alternative reimbursement strategies, for more transparency and patient-focused clinical care management programs to help manage chronic conditions and reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.

Telehealth resources will become a more popular benefits plan offering.
Ease of access is critical when it comes to getting the right care. 2020 showed us that telemedicine can be just as (if not more) effective as in-person visits for non-emergent issues. It’s also relatively more cost-effective for everyone and requires less time out of members’ day to get the care they need.

Physical and mental wellbeing will continue to be a priority.
Employers have come to realize that overall wellbeing is the key to happy, healthy employees. Wellness solutions are becoming workplace culture norms and regular benefit offerings, creating the double benefit of cost savings for employers and better workplaces for employees. HR teams will also increase access to and awareness of EAPs and other mental health resources as well as expand flexible PTO and remote-work policies.

Member education will be crucial to lowering costs (for everyone).
As we continue to work remotely, innovative enrollment models and communication strategies will play a critical role in engaging employees with their benefits offerings. Keeping members and HR teams in the loop with methods like easy-to-use portals and year-round communication models will increase awareness of available resources and support and help members manage their wellbeing.

The pandemic may have altered our work cultures and healthcare for good. It’s also brought the focus to the human side of healthcare, spotlighting the need for policies designed around wellbeing, transparency around costs and better access to care.

Looking to make some changes of your own? Get in touch with us to learn how our approach to self-funded benefits is designed with HR at top of mind.

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