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Employer-sponsored health insurance benefits: What's hot; what's not

Survey: Over five years, mental health benefits, lifestyle coaching on the rise

By Anthony Vecchione

Employers are increasingly choosing health insurance plans that emphasize preventive care, according to an annual survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The past five years have witnessed a:

  • 10 percent increase in general wellness programs
  • 9 percent increase in health and lifestyle coaching
  • 7 percent increase in preventive programs for employees with chronic conditions

That's good news for health insurance companies, which are also banking on health and wellness programs to reduce costs.

"Wellness benefits provide employers with a preventative approach that can reduce healthcare expenses ... over the long haul," Evren Esen, director of SHRM's survey program, told BenefitsPro. "Rising healthcare costs also remain a primary driver for how other benefit costs are allocated, as employers are still evaluating the impact of the Affordable Care Act."

The survey found that most employer-sponsored health plans include prescription drug coverage (96 percent), mental health coverage (91 percent), vision insurance (87 percent) and contraceptive coverage (83 percent).

"There have been shifts in the types of health care plans organizations offer as they face increased overall health care costs," according to the report, but the percent of employers who offer a PPO plan (85 percent) has remained steady.

So what's not hot?

Few plans cover egg freezing for non-medical purposes (2 percent), gender reassignment surgery (2 percent) or experimental drug coverage (9 percent).  

The least popular plans among survey respondents were mini-med plans (2 percent) and exclusive provider organizations (7 percent).

Meanwhile, despite predictions that employers would send employees to health insurance exchanges to buy plans, few are doing so. Organizations did report shifting a greater burden of costs onto employees, however.

To learn more:
- here's the survey
- read the BenefitsPro article

Related Articles:
Nearly all companies plan to stick with employer-sponsored health plans
ACA doesn't affect health plans at large companies
Rethink the link between insurance premiums and wellness programs