In a rapidly evolving professional landscape, employers are grappling with an array of challenges as they plan employee-sponsored healthcare strategies for 2024. A recent survey conducted in the US in August 2023 sheds light on the primary concerns and emerging trends in the realm of employee healthcare. Mental health, healthcare costs, pharmacy expenditures, and transformative technologies are at the forefront of employer considerations, signaling a need for comprehensive and innovative approaches to employee well-being.
Rising Mental Health Concerns
A staggering seven in 10 employers reported a surge in mental health concerns, marking a significant uptick from the previous year. With 77% of employers experiencing an increase and an additional 16% anticipating future challenges, the mental health landscape is a top priority. The implications of the ongoing pandemic, remote work dynamics, and societal shifts are evident as employers grapple with addressing and supporting the mental well-being of their workforce.
Cancer: A Continuing Driver of Health Costs
Despite the evolving nature of health challenges, cancer remains a primary driver of healthcare costs, with one in two employers identifying it as the leading contributor. The survey indicates a notable shift, as cancer surpasses musculoskeletal conditions in driving large companies’ healthcare costs. This change is attributed, in part, to late-stage cancer diagnoses resulting from pandemic-related disruptions.
Pharmacy Costs and Affordability
Pharmacy costs continue to be a significant point of concern for employers, with 91% expressing apprehension about the escalating trend. The survey underscores a substantial increase in the percentage of healthcare dollars allocated to pharmacy expenses, rising from 21% in 2021 to 24% in 2022. Employers are actively planning diverse pharmacy management strategies to address this trend and ensure the affordability of healthcare plans.
Affordability and Transformation in Healthcare Trends
As employers anticipate a potential 6% increase in healthcare trends for 2023 and 2024, the focus on affordability and transformative measures takes center stage. There is a collective emphasis on improving outcomes, reducing unnecessary services, prioritizing prevention, and enhancing primary care. Employers are keenly aware of the need for a healthcare transformation that aligns with evolving employee needs and expectations.
Assessment of Partnerships and Vendors in 2024
Looking ahead to 2024, employers plan to evaluate partnerships and vendors to enhance service quality and cost-effectiveness. Transparency, accountability, and measures to promote health equity are identified as critical factors in these assessments. Employers are increasingly seeking partnerships that align with their values and contribute to the overall well-being of their workforce.
Transparency as a Tool for Cost Containment
Transparency emerges as a potential tool for containing costs and improving the quality of healthcare services. Employers express a preference for engagement platforms that assist employees in finding well-being solutions. The demand for transparency extends to pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) pricing, with 73% of employers emphasizing the need for clarity in this area. Additionally, there is a call for improved measurement of provider quality, with 58% underscoring the importance of transparent metrics.
Evolution of Virtual Health Perception
While virtual health was initially perceived as transformative, there has been a gradual shift in employer attitudes. In 2021, 85% of employers believed in the significant impact of virtual health on overall service delivery. However, this enthusiasm waned to 74% in 2022 and further declined to 64% in 2023. Employers are becoming less inclined to view virtual health as a standalone transformative solution, signaling a nuanced perspective on its role in the future of healthcare delivery.
Health Equity Approaches in Focus
Employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of health equity, with 86% expressing interest in collaborating with employee resource groups. This collaboration aims to tailor employee benefits and well-being initiatives to specific niche groups, addressing the unique needs of diverse workforce segments. Furthermore, 85% of employers plan to implement strategies supporting the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ employees, reflecting a commitment to inclusivity and diversity.
The survey findings illuminate a complex landscape where employers are proactively addressing the multifaceted challenges in employee healthcare. Mental health, healthcare costs, pharmacy expenditures, and the evolving perception of virtual health are key focal points. Employers are poised to navigate these challenges by embracing transparency, forging strategic partnerships, and prioritizing health equity. As we approach 2024, the imperative for companies is to creatively manage these challenges while upholding their commitment to high-quality health and well-being offerings. The evolving nature of work demands adaptive healthcare strategies, and employers are at the forefront of shaping the future of employee well-being.