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Where are employee benefits headed in 2024?

Dan Thompson
Dan Thompson
Dan Thompson is chief benefits officer of Vensure Employer Services, where he leads over 150 benefits division employees across the US.

Employee benefits have evolved significantly in recent years, moving beyond basic offerings like health insurance and paid time off to more tailored packages catering to the modern workforce’s needs. This shift resulted from various factors, including changing demographics, economic evolution and an increasing emphasis on employee wellbeing.

What is the current state of the industry?

In this dynamic industry, several new benefits have gained prominence and become standard over the past decade. Mental health support tops the list, as it’s now widely recognized and expected for employers to offer mental health benefits. There’s also a growing focus on financial counseling, 401(k) planning, budgeting and pet insurance plans.

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Despite initiatives like the Affordable Care Act expanding access to healthcare, many employees still earn less than the cost of their health insurance coverage. This has reshaped how small and medium-sized businesses provide healthcare benefits, creating challenges in markets with few carriers and significantly higher rates.

The divide between what employers offer and what employees earn is widening, driven in part by insurance companies’ historical focus on quantity over quality. However, as millennials become the majority of the workforce, this trend is changing.

The evolving impact of demographics on benefits

It’s evident that older working generations (48-64 years old) remain the primary beneficiaries of health insurance, filing most claims. They seek supplemental benefits to cover deductibles, quality medical care and maximized 401(k) plans. Younger generations, on the other hand, prioritize newer and more diverse offerings, even if they come at a higher cost or with slightly reduced quality of care—including flexible, personalized and customizable benefits that meet their individual needs.

In this environment, employers must ask the right questions of benefits providers, just as employees must ask the right questions of their employers. Understanding the relationship between the deductible size and an employee’s income is crucial for determining the right plan for the individual.

Where is the future of healthcare and benefits heading?

The healthcare and benefits landscape is heading towards a more personalized, proactive and data-driven approach.

Employers are moving away from one-size-fits-all health plans and instead designing benefits that are tailored to the unique needs of their employees by offering a variety of plan options. Mental health is a great example, as it’s becoming increasingly recognized as a critical part of overall health and wellbeing. Access to genetic testing as well as personalized nutrition counseling are other examples of benefits that are increasingly popular.

Additionally, personalized medicine and predictive analytics are set to advance further, enabling providers to design robust preventative care programs and develop public health initiatives based on identified trends and patterns, ultimately improving the wellbeing of entire populations. Employers and providers are beginning to leverage data and artificial intelligence to revolutionize care and benefits, with more innovative tech solutions expected in the coming years. Administrative efficiencies, automated tasks and cost reductions will be facilitated by AI, allowing doctors to focus on better patient care.

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While new challenges will arise with these technological advancements, a collaborative effort among employers, insurance companies and healthcare providers can harness data and AI to transform healthcare delivery. The healthcare landscape continues to be complex and often confusing for employees. The future will see employers trying to improve transparency by providing clear and easy-to-understand information about their benefits plans, healthcare costs and quality-of-care options. This will help employees make more informed decisions about their healthcare and create a happier, healthier workforce.