What We Learned from Surveying Employers During the Pandemic

August 16, 2021

Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans has long been a preeminent source of timely, reliable health benefit information, used by employers, policymakers, the health care industry and the media. Unlike other surveys led by benefit professionals, Mercer’s survey is statistically representative of all U.S. health plan sponsors with 50 or more employees and has been conducted for 35 years running. However, Mercer has never surveyed employers in the midst of a global pandemic – until this past year. Over 1,800 employers participated in the survey to share how the crisis has impacted and will continue to impact their organizations and their employee benefit offerings.

It’s never been more important to learn how employers are navigating these new waters. Here are three top takeaways from the survey results:

Managing cost by seeking value

Over the past year, ongoing concerns about healthcare affordability have kept the focus on creating value rather than shifting cost in 2021. A few ways employers are adding value without adding cost include encouraging employees to use specialty pharmacies, providing access to Centers of Excellence for specific medical services, and giving employees the option to actively select a provider network for value-based care at open enrollment.

Benefits that deliver value to everyone, anywhere

Today’s challenges can seem overwhelming at times. Addressing racial health inequities. Bringing behavioral health care front and center. Creating a positive experience for both worksite employees and remote employees.

However, it’s encouraging to see employers are taking steps to address each of these challenges. The survey results show 75% of employers agree or strongly agree that their organization’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion increased in 2020. Behavioral health is employers’ top priority for employee well-being by a long shot, and designing benefits of real value for remote workers is high up on HR’s agenda.

Virtual care moves to mainstream

It’s not surprising that telemedicine utilization made a huge leap in 2020. Employers expect virtual care to continue to have a larger role moving forward and are considering new services such as “text a doctor” to provide advice based on reported symptoms and AI programs to help identify care options. A key challenge will be learning how to educate and incentive employees to use the right forms of care for the services they need.

To learn more about the findings from the survey, follow along with my blog series as I dive into each of these three major themes. To discuss which initiatives may be the right fit for your organization, please reach out to your local MMA office.