Offering cost-effective benefits is critical for organizations in any industry, but healthcare employers face a unique set of challenges. Not only have healthcare organizations been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they must also attract and retain healthcare talent while delivering comprehensive benefits to meet evolving employee needs.
Here are the top benefits challenges facing healthcare employers today:
Healthcare Talent Shortages
According to Mercer, by 2025, the demand for healthcare workers will outstrip supply, leading to shortages in positions such as home health aides, nursing assistants, and medical technicians. The healthcare talent shortage may seem more like a talent acquisition challenge on the surface, but it is also a benefits challenge. As the need to compete for scarce talent continues to grow, benefits will be a top way for healthcare employers to differentiate themselves from the pack.
Research shows that in-demand candidates will increasingly look at the quality and cost of benefits when considering job opportunities. In a Glassdoor survey, 60 percent of jobseekers said that benefits were a major factor in considering whether to accept a job offer. To have the best shot at attracting enough quality candidates, healthcare employers will need to offer competitive benefits that serve a broad range of candidate needs and preferences. In addition to traditional health benefits, employers will also need to consider supplemental benefits such as reimbursement for home office improvements, support for childcare, and pet insurance.
Rising Demand for Mental Health Services
Healthcare is perhaps one of the most stressful professions out there. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors had the highest suicide rate of any profession, largely due to depression and other mental health issues. With the toll COVID-19 has had on emergency room and critical care workers, stress, burnout, and depression have become even more widespread.
Like organizations in other industries, healthcare employers must offer benefits that meet employees’ mental health needs. In addition to traditional delivery methods, it will also be critical to offer mental health support through expanded telehealth and EAP programs.
Support for Furloughed and Laid-off Employees
While many healthcare organizations have sought to hire more nurses, lab technicians, and emergency room staff to care for patients with COVID-19, many have also had to furlough or lay off workers who performed elective procedures and other services that were postponed during the pandemic. At the height of the first surge of the pandemic in Spring 2020, a record number of healthcare workers—1.4 million—were furloughed or laid off.
With more employers affected by COVID-related job reductions, comes more employees electing COBRA coverage. As a result, healthcare employers and HR teams have had to dedicate more resources to helping furloughed and laid-off employees while also keeping an eye on complex COBRA regulatory compliance requirements. Tools for simplifying COBRA administration and helping employees keep up with their benefits policies and payments help HR and benefits teams improve benefits administration efficiency while supporting employees in need.
Regulatory Compliance Requirements
The healthcare industry is one of the most highly regulated industries. Healthcare organizations must meet requirements set by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and a range of other laws and government agencies. For example, the ACA requires employers to routinely track employee hours to determine benefits eligibility. For healthcare employers operating 24/7 and with employees working a range of hourly shifts, ACA reporting and compliance can be challenging. Fortunately, ACA compliance and reporting tools can automate the process, improve accuracy, and cut down on the time it takes to generate the required ACA reports.
The Rising Cost of Benefits
Managing rising benefits costs is nothing new, and healthcare employers are no exception. Estimates point to a four to ten percent increase in benefits in 2021, in line with increases in previous years. Healthcare employers who are already working with budget and other resource constraints will need to find new ways to offer employee benefits while also managing costs. By automating activities such as open enrollment and monthly reconciliation of carrier bills, healthcare employers can reduce costly errors and keep carrier billing and payroll deductions aligned with employee benefits elections.
Healthcare employers have certainly had more than their share of ups and downs. Healthcare HR teams and benefits administrators are faced with an ongoing challenge to offer benefits that support employees’ evolving needs while also maintaining compliance and keeping track of rising costs. With solutions that can automate just about every aspect of benefits administration and delivery, healthcare organizations can save time and money and deliver a better benefits experience to their highly valuable workforce.
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