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Employers to stick with health plan designs in 2015, add wellness incentives

Employers to stick with health plan designs in 2015, add wellness incentives

Very few employers are planning to make drastic changes to their group health benefit plans in 2015, opting instead to add incentives to workplace wellness programs in order to help hold down rising medical costs, according to survey data released on Wednesday.

More than 26% of employers polled in early 2014 by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Employee Benefit Research Institute said they plan to add financial rewards or penalties to their workplace wellness programs in an effort to drive employee engagement.

The prospect of implementing wellness-linked penalties or rewards was most popular among larger employers with 750 or more full-time workers, 35% of which indicated they were planning to introduce incentives in the coming plan year, compared with 24% of smaller employers.

“A relatively large number of employers continue to introduce wellness rewards and penalties, possibly the result of the combination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-allowed higher financial incentives and the 2018 excise tax on high-cost health plans,” the survey's authors at EBRI wrote in their findings. “Employers may also be focusing on wellness programs because of the link to worker risks and behaviors, which drive chronic conditions and account for a large percentage of overall health spending.”

Far fewer employers indicated plans to make more substantial changes to their overall health benefit plans, according to the survey's findings. Less than 4% of all employers said they planned to implement tiered provider networks, move their group plan to a private exchange or adopt reference pricing and/or value-based insurance design.

Similarly, employers demonstrated little interest in making drastic changes to their group health plan's eligibility requirements in the coming plan year. Only 1% of employers overall said they planned to eliminate health benefits altogether, while less than 8% said they intend to add new surcharges and restrictions to their plans' coverage for employees' spouses or part-time workers.

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