Industry Trends

Employee Benefits Trends: 2020 Brings a Simpler Approach

By Brad O'Neill, Benefits Strategies

Last week, I needed to use my medical coverage. As a seasoned insurance professional, I checked my benefits and confirmed my provider was still in network. Expecting the usual nightmare of calling the insurance company, I recalled I had my own health concierge. A live person via phone or text.  I suddenly realized, I hold the key to getting quality medical care, without even leaving my home or my phone.

Gone are the days of sitting in the doctor’s office when you don’t feel well. As I dialed the toll-free line, I was pleasantly surprised to get a live person on the first ring. I was expecting the typical phone tree of my insurer. Cathy greeted me kindly and explained her role and asked how she could help me. What? She is a real person and will be the same person I communicate with going forward? She is a nurse?  Yes, Cathy is my personal nurse that is the first call for my family’s medical care. A personal health assistant who can help triage my family’s medical needs.

Welcome to a simpler way to solve stressful health care related situations. Cathy either makes a recommendation of care, prescribes medicine, or makes an appointment with a cost-effective local provider. Better yet, Cathy has a counterpart, Shelly, that is my first call with any billing issues or help scheduling follow-up visits. This is my medical home and it is not a part of my insurance company, but rather my personal health concierge. They can search instantly to help save me money as they seek the best care based on price and provider quality.

The future of customized health care will be a big trend in 2020 and beyond. As we look at employee benefits from the both the employer’s lens and the views of the employees, we see a simpler, more holistic approach to employee benefits. Leading the trends for 2020 include:

1. Simplicity of HR technology – The average employer has at least four individual technology solutions: benefits administration, retirement, human resources information system (HRIS) or human capital management systems (HCM) and of course payroll. Some have additional other vendors connections for talent and recruiting. What would happen in case of a data breech with all of these systems from different vendors? Is it a safe connection? The amount of time managing multiple vendors takes too much time and in 2020, we will see human capital management systems with single sign-on for all benefits and 401K in the forefront. Employers will demand strong cyber security and the more integration provided by one vendor, it will prove to be a winning strategy for employers in 2020.

2. Customization of Benefits – As we move into the year 2020, employers will further embrace workforce diversity. The focus will be on customized benefits to meet a multi-generational workforce. The advancement of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows employers to better understand the individual needs of employees.

Mobility and how we enroll for benefits will continue to be a key topic. A recent BenefitFocus survey noted that “60% of the employees, enrolled for benefits in 2019 on their mobile device.  Mobile access for customized benefits is here and is in high demand.

According to the MetLife 2019 Generational Benefits Study, 70% of the employees surveyed said they would pay more for benefits that were better suited to their personal needs. Baby Boomers today are most concerned with their medical benefits and the cost of retirement.  Our recent college grads have other concerns. Including student loan debt and having the instant access on their phones to reach doctors in the most efficient manner.

3. Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Gig Benefits and Decision Support – It’s the stuff behind the scenes today that is increasing efficiency and guiding us to customized employee benefits in 2020. Quietly, large investments in artificial intelligence is underway in the insurance industry. It is now the “FinTech” industry.  We are seeing insurance companies diving deep into blockchain technologies to increase overall efficiency. While you may not see it every day, the work in AI and Blockchain will parlay into a crypto currency revolution for employee benefits.

“Gig benefits” days are near reality. The way most online enrollment companies today show the variety of plan designs is being replaced with smart decision support. Simple questions powered by AI that help people select the best benefits. Alexa may help you pick your next doctor.  If you are not using decision support in 2020, its time to upgrade to a vendor that is moving to the future.

4. Other key trends to watch in 2020

  • Health Care Cost Transparency – Increased focus on hospital charges and why we allow the insurance companies to lead the hospital cost negotiations?
  • Direct Primary Care – The advent of the personal medical home will allow employers to better steer to a more cost-effective approach.
  • Convergence of Health & Wealth – In 2020, we will see a deeper interest in employee benefits and financial wellness from employers. Retirement advisors and insurance brokers will form a tighter bond to serve their clients and the message of “health & wealth” will continue to gain traction. The amount of investment by the top brokers to gain momentum in the retirement business will rise significantly in 2020.

The benefits experience of the past is gone. The dream of the future of benefits is now in the palm of your hand. For just the cost of a small app, you too can have Cathy and Shelly to help you navigate this complex world of benefits. Customized benefits are part of every employers HR discussions as is AI and blockchain. As the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky said “Skate to where the puck is going be, not where it has been.”

Learn more about the author, Brad O'Neill.

You may also like…