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3 Benefit Trends to Downscale for Your Small Business in 2020

Big companies have shaken things up for health insurance this year, and if you’re a small business, you might want to follow suit in 2020: The health and satisfaction of your workforce could be on the line.

According to data from an annual survey of large employers, big businesses have reconfigured their health benefits packages with trending themes in mind, from expanding access to prioritizing quality and diversity of care.

The changes address a growing demand for more choice, convenience and better care among the U.S. workforce. In some cases, that demand has prompted action: GM’s 2019 strike resulted in the company maintaining 3% cost-sharing, five times below the company’s initial proposition. Other businesses have faced similar friction.

For small employers watching on the periphery, making such sweeping changes may not be a possibility. Still, with unemployment at historic lows and companies of all sizes competing for good talent, it’s worth doing what you can to make benefits more attractive. But with limited scope, how can you make meaningful change — especially as health care expenses continue to rise?

One strategy is to downsize existing trends and make them work for you. Here’s how.

3 Trends Worth Adapting in 2020

For this enrollment season, large employers have implemented multiple tactics to bolster their benefits — and among them, three have real potential to work for any size and scale.

1. Add More Choices

Previously, large businesses typically limited their available health insurance plans to those with high deductibles. Nearly 40% of them only offered such plans in 2018, according to the large employer survey. By now, that number has dropped to 25%. Small businesses can take the cue by diversifying their benefits offering, providing more choices of both plan type and coverage level, even if it’s just a moderate step up from their current options. For example, consider offering broader-network plans like PPOs alongside narrow-network choices, and give employees access to different tiers of deductibles, premiums and coinsurance, too.

2. Offer Telemedicine

Virtual medicine options that connect patients with providers through video chat decrease wait times and help everyone find care, even when the closest provider is miles away. Though large employers may have the resources to build customized telehealth programs for selected needs such as weight management or prenatal care, small companies can still take advantage of options such as LiveHealth Online, a part of the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield network.

3. Improve Mental Health Benefits

In 2020, employers of all sizes are likely to focus more on diversifying their mix of mental health services. However, that diversification could take different forms. According to the large employer survey, a third of large employers will even plan to offer on-site counselors at the workplace.

To downsize that model, consider digitizing it: Mental health telemedicine offers ample benefits for employee convenience and peace of mind, and it can help you address employee needs without the heavy investment of on-site care.

Prioritize the Doable, But Don’t Overdo It

Though downscaling some benefits may be worthwhile, other trends explored in the survey may not translate to a small business. For example, some large employers have begun hiring a chief medical officer to oversee health care needs and mitigate costs. Others, like Walmart, have incentivized using centers of excellence by covering all costs for major procedures, such as a transplant or weight loss surgery.

Instead of shooting for the moon, be practical: Prioritize what you can do, and don’t fret about what you can’t. Some offerings may just not be worth the investment, so assess the costs and benefits of potential changes and decide from there whether you can downscale to make new benefits available within your business. Employees will certainly appreciate the improvements, and it may even help you compete for talent that might otherwise go to a big company.

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