Employers focus on affordability and access to 2023 benefits

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Employers of all sizes are looking to bolster their health benefit options in 2023 in a bid to improve recruitment and retention, and will focus on affordability and access, according to a new survey from Mercer.

More than two-thirds of 700 respondents said they were looking to improve their health and benefits offerings next year. A total of 61% of participating US employers conduct employee benefit preference surveys.

Mercer’s recent 2022 Global Talent Trends study found that more than 50% of US employees surveyed say that not being able to work remotely or in a hybrid way all the time is a deciding factor when considering join or stay in an organization.

Employers have recognized this, and the new Health and Benefits Strategies survey found that currently 78% of participating U.S. employers are offering the option to work from home regularly, up from 26% last year, and 66% are allowing extended hours. flexible working arrangements – even including a four-day work week.

According to the survey, healthcare delivery strategies today are less focused on reducing healthcare costs and more on supporting the emotional, physical, social and financial well-being of employees. Virtual care is now playing an increasingly central role, given its potential to replace some in-person care with lower-cost virtual services, and to engage employees through channels they are comfortable with. .

While traditional telehealth services – a critical source of care during the pandemic – are now offered almost universally, the majority of survey respondents will offer virtual care solutions beyond telehealth in 2023, with more than half of large employers (52%) offering virtual behavioral healthcare next year, and 40% offering a virtual primary care physician network or service.


Health care affordability is a major concern for many workers, especially those on low incomes or those struggling with a chronic illness. Although high-deductible health plans have grown over the past decade, employers have recognized that these plans are not suitable for some employees.

More than two-fifths of large employers (41%) surveyed currently offer a low-deductible or even no-deductible medical plan option, such as a co-pay-based plan, in 2023. And another 11% are considering it. Additionally, 11% offer free employee-only coverage (ie, no payroll deductions) for at least one medical plan option, and 11% are considering it.

Many employers are looking to address benefit gaps and health disparities for LGBTQ+ and underrepresented workers. When it comes to filling the gaps for racial and ethnic groups, the two most common initiatives currently in place are advanced search functions to help plan members find acceptable healthcare providers and communications multilingual (each offered by a third of the respondents).

Specialized behavioral health care is provided by 27% of survey respondents, and 29% are planning or considering adding this type of support. Respondents also expressed strong interest in improving maternal care coverage to improve birth outcomes for Black mothers and babies; while 11% currently offer this type of coverage, 20% are planning or considering doing so.

Meanwhile, a third of large employers surveyed will offer benefits such as access to fertility treatment coverage and adoption and surrogacy benefits by 2023, and nearly a further third the are considering. Gaps remain, however: people with disabilities can sometimes be overlooked, and only around half of respondents cover hearing aids and cochlear implants (49%), and cover body-support devices and prostheses (48%).


The survey also showed rapid growth in offers across a wide range of family-friendly benefits, with 70% of surveyed employers currently offering or planning to offer paid parental leave in 2023, and 53% offering or planning to offer paid parental leave in 2023. provide paid adoption leave. And nearly one in 10 large employers (those with more than 5,000 employees) say they offer on-site child care now or will by 2023, and 22% will offer access to extra child care.

Among U.S. employers of all sizes, 37% of survey respondents provide at least one benefit or specialized resource to support reproductive health, which could include benefits to support high-risk pregnancies, breastfeeding, planning family before conception, pregnancy loss or menopause.


“Employers are struggling to strike a delicate balance between what they need to do to attract and retain talent in tight labor markets and the challenges of today’s economic environment,” said Tracy Watts, senior partner and head of National Health Policy in the United States, Mercer. “Employers need to be really thoughtful and specific about their benefits improvements to ensure they get a return on their investment. This requires an understanding of the values ​​and needs of their unique workforce.”

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