The new year is quickly approaching, which means it’s list season. The list below comes from U.S. News & World Report and identifies the five employee benefits trends human resource professionals should keep an eye out for in 2018.
#1 Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs)
This is not to be confused with the common Wellable Blog topic of health risk assessments, which are also known by a similar acronym. HRAs are an IRS-approved, employer-funded, tax-advantaged employer health benefit plan that reimburses employees for out-of-pocket medical expenses and individual health insurance premiums. Employers can make contributions to an employee's HRA account, and the employee can use the funds to reimburse them for eligible expenses. Last year, Congress passed a new law allowing smaller employers to use HRAs to pay for non-group plan health insurance premiums, including plans purchased on health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. This allows employees to pick the insurance plan they think is best for them. They can opt for a nicer plan and pay a higher premium or choose a lower premium high-deductible health plan (HDHPs). This flexibility is one of the reasons driving the usage of HRAs in 2018. HRAs are also a great reward for continuous incentive wellness challenges. Check out the Wellable blog post on how they an be used as part of an employee wellness program.
#2 Digital Health Offerings
The rise of HDHPs pushes more out-of-pocket expenses onto employees as they are responsible for most pre-deductible medical expenses. As a result, employers need to provide employees with the tools to empower them to make wiser healthcare decisions as well as lower cost alternatives to traditional care. This is why employers will continue to invest in digital healthcare solutions, such as telemedicine, price transparency tools, and online resources. These tools will help employees prevent costly medical expenses and scale to large, distributed populations.
#3 Employee Wellness Programs
Similar to digital health offerings, employers continue to be interested in providing employees with resources to better manage their health as they move towards HDHPs. When executed properly, employee wellness programs provide employees with fun, engaging, and rewarding ways to invest in their health. Some employers incorporate other employee benefits, such as HRAs and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), as incentives for participation in these types of programs. Wellable is a provider of employee wellness solutions and provides employers with a wide array of options to meet their programming needs and goals.
#4 Student Loan Assistance
With the majority of recent graduates willing to accept a salary cut for student debt benefits, it comes as no surprise that student debt relief from employers will be a trend in 2018. However, unlike many of the benefits on this list, student debt assistance does not currently have significant market adoption. According to a 2017 survey by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), only 4% of members offer this perk. Student debt relief can manifest itself in different benefits. Some employers provide money toward employees' student loans while others provide access to third parties that might offer a lower interest rate on a refinanced student loan. The Student Loan Repayment Assistance Act of 2017, which was introduced in Congress in January, would give employers a tax credit for providing student loan payment assistance for employees. Legislation like this will help drive adoption of student debt benefits.
#5 Identity Theft Coverage
With high-profile data breaches making headlines in 2017, consumers and employers are sensitive to the devastating impact identity theft can have on financial security. “Global advisory company Willis Towers Watson reports that 35% of employers offered an optional ID theft benefit in 2015 and that number could double in 2018.”