Health benefits

Family bonuses rise as employers increase virtual mental health benefits, says KFF

Dive brief:

  • Family premiums for employer’s health insurance increased by 4% to an average of $ 22,221 annually this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey, released Thursday. On average, workers pay $ 5,969 per year for their health coverage, with employers taking the rest.
  • The average single deductible for workers with one is $ 1,669, in line with the past two years, although up significantly since 2011. And 85% of covered workers now have a deductible, up from 74% ten years ago.
  • Among the employers surveyed, many said they had improved workplace health benefits in light of the pandemic by adding more mental health and virtual care offerings.

Dive overview:

The pandemic has resulted in widespread job losses that have ejected many people from their employer-sponsored health coverage, but those plans still cover around 155 million Americans, according to KFF.

In 2021, average family premiums increased roughly in line with the annual change in wages and inflation. But since 2011, these bonuses have increased by 47%, far more than wages (31%) or inflation (19%).

At the same time, the pandemic has caused massive changes in healthcare consumption over the past year, as many patients have delayed care or postponed annual checkups while reluctant to return to medical settings.

About half of employers with 200 or more workers said health care use among their plan members was as expected for the most recent quarter, but 32% said it was below expectations and 18% said she was above them.

The pandemic has also caused an increase in mental health issues that employers hope to tackle with scaled-up offers. Some 39% of employers with 50 or more workers said they had changed their mental health and addiction benefits since the start of the pandemic, and 12% said their employees were increasingly using these services.

Most of these employers reported adding mental health telemedicine services or other resources such as employee assistance programs. Fewer reported expanding their mental health and addiction service providers within the network, waiving or reducing cost-sharing for these services or increasing the coverage of those services when they are off-network.

Other changes in the provision of care have led employers to modify their provision of virtual care and telemedicine. About two-thirds of companies with 50 or more employees have changed their telehealth offerings for their employees.

Almost a quarter have expanded the telemedicine services covered and increased the number and types of virtual providers.

It comes as major payers have launched virtual health coverage plans for employers who want to keep these offers after the pandemic while using digital channels to cut costs.

In October, Cigna announced the launch of virtual health plans initially available to large self-insured employers in 2022.

Payer acquired telemedicine provider MDLive earlier this year and integrates MDLive physicians into digital-first primary, dermatology, behavioral and urgent care.

Cigna clients insured by their work will have access to MDLive’s network of virtual primary care providers for routine care, sickness visits, prescription renewals or any follow-up care needed after a wellness visit. , depending on the payer.

The KFF survey also found that large employers are more likely to offer health benefits to at least some of their workers. Almost all employers with 200 or more workers reported offering coverage, while 56% of employers with fewer than 50 workers said the same.

These small businesses most often cited cost, their small size, or workers using other coverage as the reasons for doing so.

The full annual survey included responses from 1,686 employers with three or more employees, and an additional 2,413 employers responded to a single question on the offer of coverage. Responses were collected between January and July of this year.