health, wellness plans

Congratulations, HR pros. More and more employers are putting their money where their employees’ best interest lies — in stronger health and wellness benefits.  

Despite rising costs, employers are redirecting more resources toward health and wellness benefits, according to the 2014 SHRM Employee Benefits report from the Society for Human Resource Management.

There are tradeoffs, of course — the SHRM report indicates that devoting more money to health and wellness means cutting back on less-used benefits like tuition reimbursement and adoption assistance.

The report shows a five-year trend increase in the percentage of organizations offering mental health coverage, contraception coverage, vision insurance, and coverage for bariatric and laser vision surgery.

According to the report, the median annual cost for employee-only coverage is $5,838, and the median percentage employers contribute toward employee-only health care coverage is 80%.  Currently, almost all organizations (98%) offer some type of health care coverage to their full-time employees, with the most common health insurance being a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan.

The top wellness benefits offered to manage chronic diseases and other health-related issues include: health and lifestyle coaching (47%), preventive programs specifically targeting employees with chronic health conditions (42%), subsidies or reimbursements for fitness center memberships (34%), weight-loss programs (32%), onsite fitness centers (20%), and nutritional counseling (20%).

Less-used perks disappearing

The survey noted a decrease in the last five years in financial and compensation benefits such as dependent care flexible spending accounts, undergraduate tuition assistance and executive incentive bonus plans.

Five-year trends also show a shift of health care costs to employees. As an example, there was a 12% increase in the number of organizations offering health savings accounts (HSAs) and a 17% increase in the prevalence of employer contributions to HSAs.

A deeper look at the report findings:

  • The most commonly offered benefits were paid holidays (96%), dental insurance and prescription drug programs (both 95%), organization-provided break room/kitchenette (91%), and traditional 401(k) or similar defined contribution retirement savings plan (89%).
  • More companies are offering paid-time-off (PTO) plans (58%) compared with 47% in 2010.
  • The shift to defined contribution retirement savings plans and Roth 401 (k) savings plans continues, with only 24%t of organizations reporting that they now offer defined benefit pension plans that are open to all employees.
  • The most commonly offered women’s health benefit is contraceptive coverage (84%).
  • Approximately three out of five (59%) organizations offered some form of telecommuting: 54% of respondents reported that their organizations offered telecommuting on an ad-hoc basis, 29% part of the time, and 20% on a full-time basis.
  • Fewer organizations are offering undergraduate tuition assistance (54%), compared to 2010 (62%). Additionally, fewer organizations are offering graduate tuition assistance (50%) compared to 2013 (59%).
  • The three family-friendly benefits that have decreased over the last year were domestic partner benefits for same-sex and opposite-sex partners and adoption assistance.

New benefits added to this year’s report include divorce insurance (less than 1)%, safety bonus/incentives (13%), free snacks and beverages (20%), electric vehicle charging stations (4%), and company “paraphernalia” (62%).

The SHRM survey canvassed 510 randomly selected HR professionals and examined more than 300 benefits. Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company of Columbia, S.C., sponsored the research.



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