Opinion
I'd Like a New Bike, Free Coffee and a Standing Desk, Please
Explanation of Benefits

I'd Like a New Bike, Free Coffee and a Standing Desk, Please

Attracting top talent demands that companies stay on top of the latest employee benefits trends.

To have a chance at success, businesses need to hire the right people, put them in the right positions and keep them around for a while. Few companies can do one of those well, let alone all three.

With open-enrollment season upon us, it might be interesting to look at some of the benefits that companies are using to attract the right people and not have them head out the door soon afterward because they were mismanaged.

One of the best places to look is the Society for Human Resource Management’s recently released 2017 Employee Benefits report (bit.ly/2sqPTK0). The annual report tracks trends in benefits that reflect what’s personally important to workers and financially important to employers. When those two sentiments match, you have the potential for a mutually beneficial and long-lasting employment relationship.

The latest report is based on a survey of a representative sample of human resources professionals at 3,227 companies. The report includes five years’ worth of data from 2013 through 2017 based on similar surveys conducted by SHRM over the past four years. The report tracks benefits trends in seven areas: health care, wellness, paid leave, retirement savings and planning, work-life and convenience, financial and career, and travel and relocation (see chart).

Four health care and wellness benefits that are in:

  • Health savings accounts. Some 55 percent of businesses now allow employees with high-deductible health plans to put part of their paycheck tax-free into an HSA to pay for qualified medical expenses. That’s up from 42 percent in 2013. (Some 36 percent of employers contribute to workers’ HSAs, up from 26 percent in 2013.)
  • Wholesale generic drug programs for injectable drugs. Now offered by 31 percent of employers. That’s up from 20 percent four years ago.
  • Standing desks for employees. Some 44 percent of employers this year offered a standing-desk wellness benefit to workers. That’s up from 13 percent in 2013.
  • Genetic testing for chronic diseases like cancer. Some 18 percent of employers now cover genetic tests, up from 12 percent last year, the first year the question was asked.

And four health care and wellness benefits that are out:

  • Medical flexible spending accounts. The percentage of employers offering FSAs dropped to 65 percent this year from 72 percent in 2013.
  • Long-term care insurance. Some 22 percent of employers still offer this benefit to employees, down from 31 percent four years ago.
  • Mental health coverage. Still offered by 81 percent of employers, but that’s down from 89 percent in 2013.
  • Personal or life coach. Some 30 percent of employers offer this as a wellness benefit, compared with 48 percent four years ago.

Work-life and convenience benefits growing in popularity are wear what you want and come in when you want. The percentage of workplaces where every day is casual-dress day rose to 44 percent this year from 34 percent four years ago. And the percentage of employers that allow employees to telecommute on an ad hoc basis jumped to 59 percent this year from 45 percent in 2013.

The 2018 open-enrollment period is here. How do your benefits compare with the benefits being offered to your workers by your competitors?

Short Take

It’s always good to know where you stand and who put you there. A study in the journal Health Affairs looked at trends in health care spending from 2009 through 2014 by state and by payer (bit.ly/2s9vef4). As you might expect, health care in Minnesota is a little more expensive than it is nationally. Per capita health care spending rose 4.4 percent nationally in 2014, to $8,045. Here, health care spending rose 4.8 percent, to $8,871 per person, in 2014, or more than 10 percent higher. A breakdown of the spending figures by type of insurance suggests Medicaid is the crowbar widening the gap:

  • Health care spending per Medicaid recipient was $9,176 in Minnesota in 2014, or nearly 35 percent more than the $6,815 per Medicaid recipient spent nationally.
  • Health care spending per Medicare beneficiary was $9,917 in Minnesota in 2014, or almost 10 percent less than the $10,986 per Medicare beneficiary spent nationally.
  • Health care spending per privately insured resident was $4,603 in Minnesota in 2014, or just a little over 1 percent more than the $4,551 spent by people with private insurance nationally.

David Burda (twitter.com/@davidrburda, dburda@msp-c.com) is editorial director, health care strategies, for MSP-C, where he serves as the chief health care content strategist and health care subject matter expert.

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