- Posted by Chris Elvidge
- On December 18, 2020
In just a matter of weeks, we will turn the page on one of the most challenging and tumultuous years in recent memory. Never has there been a more collective desire to move to the new year than this one! Especially since there light and hope as we look to 2021 as vaccines are being approved and widely distributed to gain control over the coronavirus.
We started the year as any other – with great promise for managing health and wealth benefits. Controlling costs, creative product and funding options, addressing employee multi-generational needs to attract and retain the best and brightest employees – but as we moved into March, we were presented with an unprecedented and ominous silent enemy. Could anyone imagine in January that quarantining, social distancing, symptom assessments, contact tracing, masks, shelter in place, PCS and antibody testing would consume all the remaining days of the year?
COVID-19 forced the benefit world to adapt quickly, dramatically, and efficiently. The arduous and overwhelming task of open enrollment meetings shifted to virtual. Technology that allowed live presentations with question and answer sessions and break outs with the capability of being taped and circulated for on-demand viewing seemingly achieved more attendance and attention than the previous live versions. Trends that also exponentially grew in success and popularity were the introduction of programs such as digital mental health support, tutoring services and learning support, back-up childcare, and virtual health visits. Telehealth visits during the pandemic have been reported to have increased well over 150%, but more important is the success and satisfaction of both patients and practitioners of these visits. The hope and assumption is that these driving forces for managing health and understanding how to access support will continue long after the pandemic subsides and that employees and their families will continue to utilize those resources to get the help they need in the most convenient, efficient, and cost effective manner.
Although it appears 2021 will be brighter, there are still immediate concerns employees face. Many are extremely worried about access to essentials like food and prescriptions. Others are worried about their own mental health and their families’ mental health. Employees are also worried about the security of taking care of their own family financially and the potential for layoffs or further furloughs.
So, as we close out the year and look for more ‘normalcy’ in 2021, what are key takeaways from this most unique and challenging year?
Staying Connected with Employees – Although communication of benefits throughout the year was important pre-pandemic, it became even more crucial during the shelter in place to stay close and build trust with employees. The connections and wellbeing communications show care for and support of employees and their families and can be critical in creating a successful and thriving organization.
Virtual Benefits Platform for Open Enrollment – keep employees aware of their benefits and to keep employees aware of what plans and programs are in place to support their needs.
Digital, Multi-Channel Approach to Communicate to a Decentralized Population – there are tremendous resources available so consider recorded videos and webinars for on-demand access, texting vehicles for reminders and company messaging, and other smart device applications, tools and technology that can reach your population in a more effective way.
Continue to Promote and Advertise Telehealth and Virtual Access to Medical Care – Mental Health in Particular – Promoting EAP and behavioral health benefits and the non-traditional approach for access via telemedicine can be especially important during the holidays, when many people experience an increase in stress, anxiety, loneliness, or depression.
In 2020, health insurance premiums were important to manage, but managing those premiums did not take center stage as it had in the past. The welcome ‘return to business as normal’ will focus our energies on the development of products and funding opportunities that will continue to disrupt the marketplace and manage premium stability. Traditional health plans have not been able to stem high cost increases, so there are innovators that are tearing down the standard models and trying different ways to deliver health care insurance. The COVID 19 impact on health insurance trends and increasing cost of insurance is yet to be seen. We will begin to see that impact in cost as we move in 2021 and examine opportunities to address any challenging trends of the future.