Medical trends have outpaced general inflation by close to three times for the past number of years, and this year a new factor came into play: the global COVID-19 pandemic.
From June through July, we surveyed 239 insurers across 56 countries to understand which health conditions, supplier factors, and consumer habits are driving costs. COVID-19 has made 2020 a challenging year. The impact of the pandemic on cost has varied based on factors such as the nature of expenses typically covered under the plans, the duration/scale of lockdowns affecting utilization, and supply-side factors like provider consolidation and pricing.
Four key themes that we expect will influence the way firms prepare for the post-pandemic world and how they build future health programs.
Be on alert - No crystal ball exists to predict the size and nature of utilization swings in medical plan claims as the COVID-19 crisis passes.
Expect variation - During 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 impact will vary by country and region and will involve financial volatility.
Take a long term view - The ripple-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic will change health benefits in the future; the crisis brings opportunity to reinvent.
Design for value - Through coverage provisions, network configuration and engagement.
Manage health risks - Through a data-driven, holistic approach that promotes a healthy workforce.
Seize opportunities for efficiencies — Through smart financing and placement.
Focus on employee benefits that truly provide value - For the organization and the entire workforce. This includes opening up access to workers who may not have access to benefits today.
Prioritize digital and mental health - The quest for productivity and performance means these will be high on the agenda.
Think outside the box - What has delivered in the past won't work in the future, as workforces become more flexible, streamlined and more diverse.
Embrace disruption - In order to balance economics with empathy.
Consider the full benefits ecosystem - Insurance provides a foundation but a holistic approach will require other solutions including public health provisions, occupational health, onsite services, COVID-19 return to work programs and other health and wellbeing resources.
Question market practice – As the rationale for benefits changes, market practice needs to keep up.
The future of work demands healthy, focused employees, and as medical trend continue to rise, now is the time to consider bold new measures to deliver maximum value and balance health care cost concerns with empathy and employee engagement.