Flexible and remote workforce companies to rethink their health programs
The current pandemic has caused disruptions in medical care, as well as sweeping changes in how employees work, all of which have a significant impact on the costs and design of companies’ health plans, according to the sixth survey. Mercer Annual Health Trends ‘MMB Health Trends: 2020 Assurer Survey’ (formerly known as Medical Health Trends Around the World Survey).
For this reason, 68% of insurance companies anticipate a significant increase in medical claims derived from treatment for COVID-19. The survey, carried out among 59 companies in the insurance sector in June and July, shows that in 2021 it will be essential to understand health and well-being as a key element in increasing the productivity of workers. employees and not just as a potential factor for cost savings.
According to Cristina de Pablo, “It is evident that the way in which medical services are delivered is undergoing a profound change, due to the disruption caused by the pandemic in work and personal habits. At Mercer, we advise organizations to implement cost containment mechanisms that allow them to adapt their health plans to the new scenario ”.
In this trend, Europe remains stable, with a slight drop in the rates of use of medical services due to the delay in treatment due to the pandemic. In some countries like Italy, the demand for private health services is increasing to avoid waiting lists in the public system, while in Eastern European countries costs are increasing due to the increase salaries of health professionals.
Thus, in 2020, the expected average cost increase in Europe is 7.5% of healthcare costs. In the case of Spain, an increase of 4.2% is expected in 2020 and 5% in 2021 due to increased spending on emergency care and hospitalizations, private hospitals will pass on the costs ( personnel, personal protection and other preventive devices, among others) to insurers.
According to the study, this global scenario of rising costs has multiple causes: waiting for patients to resume treatment interrupted during the pandemic, delays in treating chronic diseases, increasing treatment demands due to remote working and ‘a life. specific more sedentary treatments of Covid-19 and its possible sequelae, saturation of the public health system, the general increase in demand for medical services, the need to compensate for the losses caused by the pandemic and the impact of spending in personal protective equipment and other safety systems.
Mercer Marsh Benefits experts have identified four key trends that will impact how organizations will plan their health programs in a post-pandemic scenario: uncertainty over the number and nature of claims, cost containment, a new way of understanding benefits and the ability to take advantage of challenges. According to them, to face the challenges posed by the coronavirus, insurers and organizations must seize the moment to reinvent themselves, seek opportunities for efficiency, stimulate innovation and prioritize digitization to be more flexible, diversified. and competitive.
For Cristina de Pablo, “Understanding the risks related to the health of employees and managing the programs implemented in a personalized way through initiatives based on data analysis can improve the sustainability and effectiveness of these service programs” . And he says, “An appropriate wellness strategy must focus on physical, mental, social and financial well-being. Incorporating a holistic view of health into your programs will foster more engaged and productive staff. All this could generate a favorable impact for the company ”.
With this new study, Mercer highlights the gaps in current systems for protecting employee health. For the most part, processing services requires unnecessary paperwork, with difficulties or limitations of remote digital access to the health plan to use the services or make adjustments that allow employees to adapt to each individual’s needs. moment. This demonstrates the need for insurance companies to implement or continue to develop digital platforms, as well as to incorporate a wider range of services including, for example, greater attention to mental health or plans. of prevention.
In this sense, a good number of insurance companies claim to have increased their offer of virtual consultations (from 38% in 2019 to 59% in 2020), an aspect that they have integrated in an essential way in their management plan. In contrast, more than half (55%) already offer coverage for preventive services, such as doctor’s visits, and two in ten say they are in the process of implementing these initiatives within the next two years.
The role played by the health plans promoted by companies will be increasingly important in providing the necessary medical care to employees. Thus, for example, insurers’ forecasts predict that health plans will include vaccination against Covid-19 as coverage in the years to come.