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Employer-based health coverage remains strong, though concerns about affordability remain

Mental health benefits have also become important for employers, recognizing that it has an effect on absenteeism and productivity.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Ninety-six percent of employers believe improving mental health in the workplace is good for their business, but only 65% indicate their company provides adequate mental health services, according to findings from a new survey released by national nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies.

Generally, there's awareness that an employee's physical health has an impact on absenteeism and productivity. But mental health, formerly a taboo subject, is garnering increasing recognition as well, and for the same reasons.

The seventh annual comprehensive view of employer-sponsored health benefit offerings surveyed 1,379 employer decision makers, and showed companies recognize the value and business imperative of offering mental health benefits to their employees.

While almost all employers believe improving mental health in the workplace is good for their business, 17% of employers acknowledge not offering any resources at all. The most common mental health resources offered by employers are stress management classes (39%) and mental health awareness training (39%).

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

Employers are confident:  88% feel their company's current financial situation is good or excellent.

In light of their financial position and the health coverage mandate for employers with 50 or more employees, nearly 100% of large and midsize employers report offering health insurance to full time employees, and 25% of all employers offer health insurance to part-time employees. 

Employers that provide coverage expect to continue to provide health insurance and other healthcare benefits to their employees, with only 4% expecting their company to reduce coverage as much as possible. The survey also found that in the next one to two years, about 62% of employers expect their company to make positive changes and additions to health benefits for employees, while only 27% expect negative changes to those benefits.

Yet cost and affordability remain high priorities for employers when managing their employee health benefits. More than seven in 10 employers overall -- those that offer health coverage and those that don't -- say their company is concerned about affordability.

These employers want to address this challenge jointly with employees, with a strong majority of employers, 78%, saying they're taking action to manage healthcare costs and almost the same number (79%) wanting employees to take more action to minimize healthcare costs.

As for what they're doing to reduce costs: Nearly two in five concerned employers are finding ways to reduce health insurance premiums, while others are comparison shopping for the best options (37%) or talking to benefit advisors about how to reduce costs (37%).

WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW

There are notable differences between all employers and employees when it comes to workplace wellness programs.  Almost two-thirds of employers (63%) say they offer a workplace wellness program, but only 43% of employed consumers say their employer offers such benefits.

Among employers offering a wellness program, more than four in five say it positively impacts performance and productivity (84%), workers' health (83%), and workers' job satisfaction (81%).  But only 59% of employed consumers agree they would have greater commitment to their company if they offered programs to improve their health and well-being.

Further discrepancies are seen in the overall employer perception of somewhat or very important attributes to attract and retain employees: flexibility for caregivers, 79%; maternity leave/benefits, 77%; paternity leave/benefits, 72%.

Again, by comparison, the survey showed employed consumers believe the following are somewhat/very important: 66% for flexibility for caregivers; 52% for maternity leave/benefits; and 72% for paternity leave/benefits.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com