Survey Outlines Hot-Button Issues for Employers in 2024 and Beyond

A new Employee Benefits News health care survey among employers and employees dives deeper into rising costs and growing concerns about cost management, employee well-being and innovative health benefit strategies. Here are the key findings from the State of Healthcare 2024 report:    

Higher costs for cancer and chronic care: More than 80% of benefit leaders have seen an increase in the overall cost of health benefits, and 66% report an increase in employee premiums. The costs for the usual suspects—cancer and chronic condition care—have increased at least 50%, with increases at large employers more common. Nearly 80% of employers believe their next benefits cycle will continue to bring higher costs.  

Employees struggle with high costs: Employees know they’re absorbing these increasing costs, with more than half of respondents agreeing that their premiums are too expensive, and they pay too much for care under their current plan. Nearly a quarter of workers have medical debt, and for these respondents, 40% say it is their main source of stress. Further, 76% of employees admit they are worried they will eventually find themselves in medical debt.  

Increase in sick days: Even though 65% of employers agree their workforce is generally healthy, a majority admit they have seen either no improvement or a decline in employee health over the past few years. Moreover, around 40% have noticed an increase in the utilization of sick days and medical leave. 

The sick-day increase may be caused by managers now encouraging team members to stay home if they are not feeling well to avoid the spread of viral infections. However, the increase in medical leaves does suggest more serious challenges popping up for workers, with one-third of employers seeing a rise in disability leave and overall prevalence of chronic illnesses. 

Low health care literacy: The survey included a health care literacy quiz for employees. It tested respondents on their knowledge of basic terminology like deductible, premium and copay. The results highlight just how much employees need help understanding their health plans: Only 31% earned a score above 70%.  

Preventive care: Employers and employees seem to be on the same page about the importance of health screenings and other disease prevention. Nearly 80% of employers incentivize preventive care, and more than 80% of employee respondents saw their primary care doctor in 2023. Incentives frequently include vaccination sessions, educational sessions, hosted screenings, monetary incentives and paid time off for preventive care. 

Lowering health care costs: Overall, 89% are taking steps to control health care costs, with a majority focusing on wellness benefits that bolster preventive care access, telehealth and health care navigation tools. But still, 70% are concerned about being able to continue to afford health care coverage for their employees. 

Shifting to a value-based health plan or becoming self-insured are less-popular measures because employers perceive the transition would require an insurmountable amount of administrative work. However, such a challenge to the status quo might be what employers need to disrupt the cost trends they’re stuck in.

Read the full report at this link.