Quick look: After a trying, three-plus years, the White House has declared an official end to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Though not every business is in the same recovery mode, the time has come to collectively move forward. Inevitably, health plan modifications are at the forefront of discussion, which presents an opportunity for brokers to meaningfully connect with their clients as they navigate these changes.
The pandemic forced a sink-or-swim mentality in terms of adaptability. In one swift motion, the majority of operations moved exclusively virtual. Healthcare regulations changed on a week-to-week, and, in some cases, day-to-day basis. Moreover, company policies were temporarily adjusted as the world moved through the different phases of the pandemic.
As a result, many benefits, such as COVID-19 vaccinations and telehealth services, became part of the norm as the months rolled on. Additionally, certain COVID-related services and programs were covered at no extra cost to employees and employers.
However, on May 11, 2023, the public health emergency officially ended. Benefits previously paid for may soon disappear, leaving businesses wondering how they should prepare and PEO brokers strategizing ways to help them.
What’s next for employer-sponsored health benefits?
Much has changed in the last few years with regards to benefit compliance and competitiveness. Companies across all industries are evaluating their employee benefits and how they match up to what workers value most, as well as how much it’ll cost to keep them.
As when the pandemic first began, business leaders are looking to brokers for guidance. Here are a few areas they’re focused on most:
Costs due to health policy changes
During the PHE, COVID-related costs including vaccines, testing, and anti-viral medication were free and accessible to all. However, employees now face the added expense of certain areas of prevention and care. Though many employees may still want these benefits, some companies may no longer require or cover them.
Under the change in government policy, COVID-19 vaccines will still be considered preventative and will not be subject to co-pays. However, some expenses may fall to employees for further testing and treatment. Therefore, employers must decide whether to keep internal vaccination policies and cover the expenses, or implement other ways to provide protection and affordable care for their workers.
Access to telemedicine services and care
Another area of interest is telehealth. The digital world expanded exponentially during the pandemic as people were dictated by stay-at-home orders. Meetings were transferred to phone calls or videoconferencing, including appointments with healthcare providers. People became acclimated to the convenience and accessibility telehealth provided, and it has since become a preference for many employees.
As of now, compliance will continue to allow telehealth services on employer-based plans through 2025. However, whether this will continue beyond this timeframe is yet to be determined. Employers must prepare for if and when the time comes access is reduced.
Demand for mental health benefits
The exhaustive toll of the pandemic left many seeking their mental health support. In 2022, nearly 50% of workers reported a decline in their well-being. Fortunately, as with standard medical services, virtual platforms became more commonplace. There was a greater number of people able to receive treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Unsurprisingly, mental health services remain in high demand. And research shows 67% of employees want their employers to help them with their stress and anxiety. In turn, investment in these areas lead to a more productive and happier workplace. If employers don’t offer health plans with these types of benefits included, it’s smart to evaluate other avenues of complementary stipends or programs.
Self-care as part of company culture
The increasing public need for mental health goes hand-in-hand with the skyrocketing number of workers experiencing burnout during the pandemic. A company culture of high pressure in addition to pandemic stress caused a surge of people to voluntarily quit their jobs. Therefore, business leaders are taking a closer look at where they can make changes.
Introducing benefits like flexible schedules and remote working environments have become more popular to motivate employees. Also, giving employees’ autonomy to gauge their own self-care has a positive impact on productivity and overall worker satisfaction.
Leading clients through the transition
Despite the numerous changes which have occurred since March 2020, one goal remains the same: be compliant, stay competitive. This means the broker-client relationship has become increasingly important as recruitment and retention strategies evolve.
Brokers have therefore also expanded their network to include partnerships with professional employer organizations (PEOs). PEO brokers have an extra advantage by introducing valuable HR resources and expertise to their clients. Because even though it’s coming to end, the PHE clearly showed how things can change in an instant.
With federal and state regulations constantly changing, it’s critical for companies to stay current on what’s required of them. Having a dedicated team who can anticipate these updates can ensure the benefits offered are in line with compliance, costs, and competitiveness.
Calling on the support of a PEO
Connecting clients with a PEO is one of the most valuable assets contributing to growth. It frees up their time so they can focus on revenue strategies and scalability while leaving the responsibilities of HR in the hands of seasoned experts.
PEO brokers link clients to premium benefits, usually reserved for larger companies, at cost-effective rates. Also, a PEO’s team of HR professionals can create benefit plans based on a company’s specific needs, including their budget and current workforce demands.
At ExtensisHR, we take a collaborative, customized approach. In addition to benefit plan evaluation and administration for employees, our comprehensive services include:
- Payroll and tax administration
- Talent management and recruiting
- ACA compliance
- Employer Protection Program
- Time-saving HRIS technology
… and much more! We simplify the complexities of HR management and compliance. Rather than worry about how changes will negatively affect your clients, our team is proactive in creating sustainable workplace solutions designed for their continuing success.
Federal, state, and local policies are in a constant state of flux. We provide personalized support and extensive services to support your clients’ every HR need. Contact ExtensisHR today to learn how a PEO partnership may benefit you.