As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, healthcare costs are rising. American employers are worried about what healthcare might cost in the upcoming year. The implication is that many employers and benefits providers are now navigating uncharted waters. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the workforce, but a flexible benefits design could make all the difference.

Why Offer Flexible Benefits?

A flexible benefits design could make all the difference in 2021 because the impact from the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the same for all employees. Even before COVID-19 struck, inequities in benefits designs were endemic in the system. The virus only highlighted these inequalities, arising from socioeconomic status and systemic racism.

Lower-wage workers face the brunt of this inequity as few employers (approximately 10 percent) are willing to provide any subsidies or flexibility in plans. Whether employees earn $30,000 or $250,000, they often receive the same health benefits options from their employers. A flexible benefits design creates opportunities to tailor benefits and crafts a payment mechanism that works with employees’ income levels.

Introducing flexibility not only gives employees more access to care but it also likely improves employee retention and productivity. Furthermore, setting the groundwork of a flexible benefits plan design in 2021 will help respond to future periods of uncertainty.

Regular Feedback From Employees for Success

A flexible benefits design cannot be effective without regular feedback from employees. They are the greatest asset to any organization, and employers need to meet their needs. But a one-size-fits-all approach can’t work since employees come from different backgrounds and have different experiences with COVID-19.

It is now more important than ever to solicit employee feedback. Businesses should try to uncover what their employees are going through and how the ongoing pandemic has affected their lives. This data would help design a benefits plan that suits their situations so that each receives the right and high-quality care.

Expand Access and Affordability to High-Value Services

The devastating and long-term effects of COVID-19 have given rise to a new normal. Thus, companies have to figure out what the future looks like from the pandemic perspective. As employers and employees consider things like working from home, dealing with a reduced workforce, and adjusting to the dip in the economy, no one can be quite sure what the post-pandemic times will look like.

But the bottom line is that employers need to expand access and affordability of high-value services for their employees. To achieve this feat, they may have to adopt flexible benefit designs to not only be flexible with income levels but with benefits offerings as well.

Implement Flexible Clinically Driven Benefits Design and Payment Models

There are no silver bullets for employers as 2021 approaches. They will have to make a bold step if they hope to maintain a productive workforce beyond 2020. For instance, employers may want to reduce deductibles on employee incomes to help them access quality care. This should be the case for those employees in a lower salary brackets who may have less out-of-pocket cash to support emerging health issues.

Such plans would require the implementation of clinically driven payment mechanisms and benefit designs that are flexible enough to allow reallocation of funds as and when needed. This would make the employees healthier in 2021, and it could lead to more beneficial production too. All companies should consider adopting a flexible benefits design that would cater to any changes in employee healthcare needs.

Make Flexible Benefits Easy to Access

At Benefits Zone we work with each company to identify how benefits designs can be incorporated into a mobile app for their employees in 2021. This benefits toolkit is filled with information regarding their employer’s healthcare plans. Companies can change the information in this toolkit to reflect any changes in their offerings at any time. The Benefits Zone solution also provides companies critical employee engagement insights to help adjust their benefits offering to best meet employees’ needs.