Stethoscope next to a tablet with the year 2021 on display.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and changes in healthcare, many Small Groups are rethinking the role of employee benefits like health insurance. Considering the fact that many will be operating remotely for the foreseeable future, no longer will office perks like ping pong tables and happy hours suffice. Rather, benefits like healthcare are expected to play a much larger role heading into 2021. Here are few trends to watch when it comes to quoting and selling Small Group benefits.

Shift Toward High Deductible Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts

To combat rising premiums in an uncertain economy, many Small Groups may be looking to switch their insurance offerings to high deductible health plans (HDHPs). As the name implies, HDHPs are based around higher deductibles, with the tradeoff of lower premiums.

In addition to lower premiums, another incentive for your Small Groups to switch to an HDHP is that it can then be paired with a health savings account (HSA). HSAs offer both Small Groups and their Employees major advantages like tax-free contributions and tax benefits.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 56 percent of Employers offer HSAs as a benefit, a percentage that is expected to rapidly increase in the coming years. HSAs have risen 12 percent year-over-year, with assets growing by 20 percent annually, according to Devenir. The investment advisory and consulting firm projects that by the end of 2021, the HSA market will reach $88 billion in assets held by more than 30 million accounts.

Growth in Telemedicine

Telemedicine, or telehealth, has been a growing trend for some time but was further utilized this past year with social distancing measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Suddenly, non-critical surgeries, procedures and doctor’s visits came to a halt, causing medical professionals to pivot to telemedicine as a new way of approaching patient care.

Looking ahead, a SHRM Employer survey found that nearly all of the responding Employers will offer telehealth services for minor, acute services in 2021. In addition, 52 percent of those same Employers plan to offer more virtual care options next year than they had in the past.

Increased Access to Mental Health Coverage

The stress of the pandemic, combined with the loneliness of social distancing, caused significant increases in depression and anxiety this past year. A recent CDC study showed that the national rate of anxiety in the United States tripled in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2019 while depression almost quadrupled.

In 2021, expect many Small Groups to take a more holistic approach when it comes to healthcare by not only focusing on the physical health of their Employees, but also on their mental wellbeing. According to the aforementioned SHRM Employer survey, a whopping 88 percent of respondents plan to provide access to online mental health support resources in 2021.

Expansion of Voluntary Benefits

When it comes to ancillary benefits, expect to see Small Groups paying more attention to benefits that they might not otherwise have found as important or needed pre-pandemic. Pet insurance and critical illness insurance are two voluntary benefits that stand out in particular when you consider the following:

As Small Groups prioritize Employee acquisition and retention over the next 12 months and offer greater customization in benefits packages, Brokers should look for a jump in the growth rate of voluntary benefits in 2021.

Pay or Play Penalties Increase

When it comes to federal regulations, compliance is critical. As a Broker, you may see some new business opportunities from Groups with 50 Employees or more looking to avoid costly noncompliance penalties. As you likely know, businesses with at least 50 employees must offer the minimum essential health coverage that’s affordable or pay a penalty. However, that penalty will increase in 2021 as follows:

  • The adjusted $2,000 amount is increased to $2,700.

  • The adjusted $3,000 amount is increased to $4,060.

While there are no expected updates to HIPAA, you’ll also want to make sure any technology or management systems you use remain compliant with HIPAA and HITECH.

Migration from Paper to Digital

In a remote world, health insurance enrollment is no longer being conducted via paper forms. We saw this in the most recent open enrollment period this past fall and expect even more Brokers and their Small Groups to make the switch to digital in 2021.

Technology like FormFire’s all-in-one insurance platform can provide the secure, digital solution your clients need to compare health plans, make plan selections and manage qualifying life events throughout the year. Our single, flexible system offers a simplified benefits experience to allow your clients to spend less on Group benefits management and more on the core of their business. Contact FormFire today to learn more or request a free demo.