“Total health benefit cost rose 3.4% on average in 2020, reaching $13,674 per employee among all US employer health plan sponsors with 50 or more employees, according to the annual Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans 2020,” Mercer wrote in a press release. “Large employers (those with 500 or more employees) reported a cost increase of just 1.9%, their lowest increase since 1997, as plan members avoided health care facilities due to the pandemic. … Survey results suggest that many large employers plan to use money saved in 2020 to invest in programs to support and engage employees in 2021. ‘The need to minimize exposure to the virus and ease the strain on overloaded health facilities caused many people to forgo care this past year, which translated to slower cost growth in 2020. Heading into 2021, that’s allowed employers to avoid cost management tactics like shifting cost to employees,’ said Tracy Watts, a senior consultant at Mercer. ‘Instead, we’re seeing many focus on supporting employees with additional resources to help keep them engaged, productive and healthy during these tough times.’ A Mercer claims analysis found that fewer employees are receiving behavioral health treatment than last year – a serious concern given that the pandemic has intensified issues with work-life balance, isolation, sleep disorders, alcohol consumption and financial stress, and has worsened the opioid crisis. Mercer’s database of claims information (based on over one million members) shows that from March to May of 2020, the number of individuals with newly diagnosed behavioral health problems was down 25% from the same timeframe last year, despite the likely greater need.”
“With slow health benefit cost growth in 2020, employers plan to invest in more support for employees, says Mercer.”
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.