What We Learned at the 2018 Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

What We Learned at the 2018 Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

Two weeks ago, the Benefitfocus team headed to Las Vegas for Human Resource Executive’s annual Health and Benefits Leadership Conference (HBLC).  

We were able to share with attendees a revolutionary new solution – BENEFITFOCUS® BenefitsPlace™ – that connects employers, brokers and insurance carriers on a single platform to provide greater choice and protection for consumers and their families.

During our time at the conference, we were also able to sit in on sessions about delivering a health care experience that can positively impact both employers and employees, while considering what may be on the horizon for health care policy. Here are some of the top takeaways:

Talent Management

Millennials (and the beginnings of Gen Z) are taking over the workforce. Combined with this takeover is also a period of low unemployment. This was the topic du jour during HBLC, with many sessions focusing on how HR and benefits leaders can take an even closer look at talent management and employee experience strategies to address this reality.

Company culture is one major focus area for employee experience; however, we know this is not new. Ever since millennials entered the workforce, we’ve been reading articles like this on how important company culture is to these employees. They’re looking for a company whose culture will give them purpose and connection so they can thrive.  

Another aspect, and one of the big questions posed at the conference, is, Can you attract and retain the right people if you aren’t looking after their well-being? Increasingly, well-being is becoming an intentional element of talent management and employee experience strategies. And what’s great is that this is an area where benefits professionals can make a big impact.

There’s movement away from the old days of selecting and recommending benefits simply by prevalence. But the new model of diversity and inclusion with benefits requires an approach that begins and ends with the consumer experience.

Consumers are making decisions to protect themselves and their family, as well as to save for the future. They need the right mix of benefits options, as well as education to help identify what makes sense for their circumstances now and for the future.

Technology plays a critical role here, helping to connect the entire ecosystem of employers, brokers and insurance carriers to deliver on that consumer experience, while ensuring delivery on data accuracy, visibility and timeliness—ultimately leading to a happier, healthier workforce and one where employees are bringing their best selves to the job.

Find out what it means to be connected on a single platform to give consumers greater choice and protection.

Employer Strategies for Cost Control

In the past, the mantra for employers was that wellness programs were the answer to health care cost control. These programs focused on behavioral and lifestyle changes intended to reduce health risks.

What we now know is that those intentions rarely come to fruition. As it turns out, wellness programs more serve to help those who are already healthy get healthier, but don't do much for the unhealthy. The good news here is that instead of taking a bird’s-eye view of wellness, employers can now hone in on precise strategies to target specific sources of excessive health care spending.

How? By using technology to mine insights from their own employee benefits data.

We know that five percent of employees drive roughly 50 percent of medical costs. The overwhelming concentration of expenses is due to high-cost claimant experiences, such as back surgeries, cancers, substance abuse treatment and complications involving hospitalization.

By digging into their data, employers can monitor population health and identify exactly what clinical conditions and medical treatments are driving higher costs. Then, they can construct specific strategies to mitigate those costs through changes to plan design, communication and compliance programs.

While wellness programs can have a positive impact on the workforce, using data-driven insight allows employers’ to pinpoint solutions and pull the right levers for cost control.

Midterm Elections

It’s hard to believe, but Election Day 2018 is only seven months away. And, as always, the outcome could have implications for HR and benefits professionals.

This was another focus at the conference, and rightly so. It’s difficult to keep up with the back-and-forth of Congress, much less gauge what might be coming in the future, especially when it comes to health care policy.

Last year, we ultimately saw more words than action on the ACA. However, we did see some changes come with tax reform legislation. Of note, the final bill included a provision that zeroed out the penalty for not complying with the ACA’s individual coverage mandate. We also saw a delay of the Cadillac tax, medical device tax and the insurer excise tax.

Most recently, an Omnibus Spending Bill had the potential to include actions of greater significance for benefit professionals. But when negotiations fell through, the individual and group health insurance markets were left without any of the changes they were hoping to see— individual market stabilization for the ACA, health savings account improvements, and retroactive relief from the ACA employer mandate penalties and reporting duties.

For more on the current state of health care reform and a look at what may be coming in the future, watch this on-demand webinar featuring health care policy expert Chris Condeluci.

Additional Industry Insights

Benefitfocus recently had its own HR technology conference, One Place 2018, with a wealth of content specific to the benefits industry.

The event kicked off with Benefitfocus CEO Ray August announcing the launch of Benefitfocus BenefitsPlace, as well as some other exciting technology developments for the benefits community.

Watch the recording of One Place 2018 Keynote Address to get the scoop today!