Takeaways from the 2019 Medical Trends & Observations Report

For all the data junkies out there, spring is a good season. Numerous annual reports are released, and one that caught my attention recently is the Gartner 2019 Medical Trends and Observations Report, which draws data from DirectPath, one of our valued channel partners. The study draws information from over 1,000 employers, with 85% of firms having over 8,000 employees.

Here are just a few interesting points I observed from the report:

  1. Tax-advantaged accounts continue to grow in prevalence. More than half of employers now offer either a Health Savings Account or a Health Reimbursement Arrangement, with 4 in 5 of those employers choosing HSAs vs. HRAs, and 10% of employers offering both. But the amount of employer contributions appears to be dropping.
  2. The prevalence of high deductible health plans ($1,350 self-only deductible, or $2,700 family deductible) has jumped by over 1/3 this past year, with 41% of employers now offering these plans. And employers now offer an average of 5 medical plans to their employees.
  3. Surcharges for tobacco use and/or the offer of spousal coverage remain popular. The study shows that 27% of employers require surcharges for tobacco users on the medical plan, while 18% impose a surcharge when the spouse enrolls for coverage if the spouse had access to enroll on other coverage at work.

I’m reminded of the challenges that employers face in communicating and enrolling complex benefit offerings. With more plans being offered, and more of them involving tax advantaged accounts (which are sometimes a challenge for the consumer to understand), employees can benefit more than ever from meaningful decision support in the plan selection and enrollment process. bswift’s Ask Emma decision support tool is perfect for helping make sense of complicated offerings, whether set up for self-service enrollment, or when using the assistance of a benefits counselor such as those deployed by DirectPath.

And, having an automated administrative system that can handle a variety of funding tools such as wellness credits, tobacco or spousal surcharges, and medical defined contributions, alongside traditional employer contributions, can significantly reduce consumer confusion and the hassle of dealing with a myriad of questions in the human resources department.

Have you had helpful technology experiences managing the changes in your benefit offerings? We’d love to hear from you! Comment with your experience on LinkedIn.

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