Quick Look: Though it would be nice to put the pandemic firmly in the rearview, its profound effect still reverberates during this time of transition. The 2022 BenefitsPRO Healthcare Survey identifies how changes have impacted brokers specifically and what they can prepare for in the immediate future.
In what felt like a single swoop, the pandemic changed the face of healthcare. With new regulations in place, telehealth as a top priority, and cutbacks (and in some cases, extensions) in medical coverage for employers and their employees, nothing has felt quite the same.
For many businesses, the shift has led to a complete overhaul in their healthcare benefits programs, or at least a need for further evaluation, which has kept professional employer organization (PEO) brokers busy and anticipating their next moves. The 2022 BenefitsPRO Healthcare Survey offers insight from a mix of respondents, including broker owners, consultants, and broker employees, and reveals steadiness doesn’t always mean stagnant, and the trend of self-care is becoming the new standard.
Underwhelming regulations intended to help fall short
The majority of survey respondents reported regulatory changes including the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the Price Transparency Rule had no effect on broker business. Instead, areas seen as a “significant help” were the American Rescue Plan (9%) and individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs) (6%). Though more time may be needed to gauge the true impact of these regulations and their intent to improve the healthcare system, it’s left most feeling underwhelmed.
However, an unaffected business isn’t always a bad thing. Though the call for change is weighing heavily on small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to stay competitive, for brokers, their accounts remain stable. 41% of respondents revealed the pandemic will have little to no impact on their business and clientele going forward, with 15% sharing somewhat of an impact as the next highest choice.
Steady benefits coverage across SMB accounts
With the emergence of an employee-led workforce over the past few years, employee healthcare benefits have been reevaluated as well. Fortunately, the majority of brokers have not experienced a significant decrease in account coverage. The BenefitsPRO survey reports 60% of respondents expect their coverage levels to stay the same and 20% even expect to experience a small increase. Only 12% reported a small decrease and 4% expect account coverage to decrease by a lot.
According to the survey, brokers still count network breadth/strength as the top factor when selecting options for their clients. As a PEO broker, there’s a greater opportunity through expansion to introduce efficiencies, cost-saving strategies, and HR expertise and support to solidify relationships with SMB clients. Having the time and resources to adapt to industry changes while still providing a customized level of service is made easier through a PEO partnership.
Getting creative with voluntary benefits
An employee-led workforce means employees are choosier about when, where, and how they work. Therefore, employers can’t cut medical benefits to combat increasing healthcare costs and expect to stay competitive. Instead, brokers can help their SMB clients get creative by first identifying which benefits are making the biggest impact and which can be eliminated.
With many continuing a work-from-home lifestyle instituted by early-on, stay-at-home orders, the focus on family is important now more than ever. Employees want to make sure everyone in their household (including pets) has benefits coverage and they also have a greater appreciation for maintaining a work-life balance. As a result, 51% of brokers expect the total compensation from ancillary/bundled product sales will increase slightly and 13% expect a significant increase.
Additionally, voluntary benefits have seen a resurgence in the past several months. 58% of survey respondents said they either “somewhat or strongly agree” they’ve positioned voluntary benefits more prominently with dental, vision, and life insurance still the standard options. Although options including critical illness coverage, pet insurance, student loan repayment, and fertility benefits all have had significant increases over the past year. A PEO can help brokers survey, monitor, and educate their clients to gauge benefits value and make adjustments as needed.
Renewed focus on self-care and self-funded health plans
When the pandemic put everyday needs and conveniences into jeopardy, everyone began to take a closer look at what these needs actually entailed. This included access to mental health support. The demand for mental health coverage has risen over the past two years and will continue to be a main area of focus when it comes to benefits plans. 56% of respondents say they already promote offering mental and behavioral health services in their resources and benefits, with 55% expecting the focus on mental health will be one of the top three areas of growth in the next five years.
Meanwhile, as SMBs look for new solutions to mitigate rising healthcare costs, a growing number are interested in self-funded health plans. Half of the broker respondents expect an increase in 2022, and 46% expect self-funded accounts to hold steady. Extending this as an option personalizes client solutions to fit their workforce needs.
A significant part of this personalization includes digital health services. SMB employers and their employees want access to telehealth and to maintain data transparency. Essentially, the mobile lifestyle means people expect to conduct business wherever they are at a time most convenient to them.
As a PEO broker, you can give your clients this opportunity through ExtensisHR’s Work Anywhere® platform. It enables SMB leaders to securely manage HR tasks from anywhere, any time, including payroll, benefits, compliance, and recruiting. Working with a PEO like ExtensisHR serves as an extra advantage to brokers by extending their network to a team of HR experts, introducing valuable technology, and streamlining operations to help their clients scale faster.
The standard healthcare plans employers have been used to in the past are no longer as applicable as they once were. As a result, brokers must adapt their strategies and extend their resources to offer their clients the best of the best.
Our HR experts are ready to support and complement your efforts to deliver your clients a tailored approach and flexibility to adapt to whatever the situation calls for. Contact ExtensisHR today.