January 6, 2021

Employee Benefits in 2021: 9 Predictions Every HR Leader Should Prepare For

The Nava Team

"... but in the employee benefits space, nothing can be said to be certain, except compliance filings and renewal increases." - (not) Benjamin Franklin

2021 is finally here (can we get a hallelujah?) and with this new year comes a moment of reflection, a glimmer of optimism, and the paradox of planning for the unknown. To help HR leaders better prepare for what will be another unpredictable year, we asked the Nava team to share their top predictions for 2021. Read on and let us know if you agree (or disagree)!

1. Virtual medicine (finally) goes mainstream

Brandon Weber, CEO & Co-Founder

The global pandemic has created a once-in-a-generation stress test of the US healthcare system that revealed whether the industry could be responsive in the face of unprecedented medical need. One of the bright-spots? A massive acceleration of virtual medicine usage. From primary care to chronic care to mental health, the genie’s out of the bottle and in 2021, I predict we’ll see far more employers evaluating and adopting virtual medicine solutions in response to their members’ desire for cheaper and more convenient care. This will create a new downstream deployment challenge around educating employees on how to use these new services.

2. More point solutions, more problems

Donald DeSantis, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder

The gaps that COVID-19 exposed in the US healthcare system will inspire a new crop of  healthcare innovators. However, without the right guidance, HR leaders risk being flooded by a wave of shiny new start-ups that offer unproven solutions, limited performance data, and may not have the resources to support a successful deployment.

3. Mental health becomes as ubiquitous as physical therapy

Joe Donovan, Chief Revenue Officer & Benefits Consulting Lead

2021 will be the year of mental health. I foresee mental health utilization becoming more in line with a traditional benefit like physical therapy. We all strive to get our annual physical each year, but often neglect taking care of ourselves mentally and emotionally. In the wake of COVID-19 and its impact to employees and their families, the tide will continue to change to whole-person wellness.

4. Healthcare navigation goes from "nice-to-have" to employer "must-have"

Colleen Locke, Director of Client Success

In 2021, employers are going to be leaning more heavily on healthcare concierge services. Employees need support with a wide range of benefit issues - from questions on how their plan works, to finding affordable prescriptions, to navigating behavioral health services - and HR leaders are stretched thin. Concierge services can help members while increasing HR and employee productivity.

5. Prescriptions are going digital

Kareem Zaki, Co-Founder

The mail-order and online pharmacy market will massively inflect as consumers who were forced to find alternatives to their local pharmacy during COVID-19 will likely stick with online options after going through the process of evaluating a new provider. Amazon's entry into the pharmacy space will only accelerate this trend, as its presence will drive increased awareness of the entire category and highlight easier, more efficient pharmacy options.

6. Co-create your company's post-pandemic new normal with your employees

Ilana Mauskopf, Senior Manager of People Ops

2021 will set the stage for what the new normal looks like when it comes to the future of work and benefits. HR leaders are going to have to navigate how to support employees through the rest of the pandemic, while also thinking about what a return to office life could look like. It's going to be more important than ever to ask for feedback from employees on what benefits have been most helpful to them so that employers can continue to make the right investments.

7. New legislation will push the industry towards more transparent and performant health plans

Marcel Ocampo, Partner

With new healthcare pricing transparency legislation in effect, we'll see an accelerated shift towards consumer-driven plans (e.g., HSAs) that offer employees more control of their healthcare investments. Additionally, more employers will look to alternative-funded options that make use of the data that's now available to them, which could include exploring high-performant medical networks and steerage via value-based design plans.

8. Technology is a powerful ally in the battle against cost increases

Ralph Spagnuola, Partner

So far, I've seen projected renewal increases for health insurance range anywhere from 4 - 10%. My prediction is that smaller employers will shoulder more of these costs, seeing renewals climb closer to 10%. This will drive them to become even more creative and innovative when it comes to cost containment and getting the most out of their plans. Technology will be a powerful ally, helping drive benefits ROI with tools that ease the HR administrative burden and drive up healthcare literacy and usage among employees.

9. Employers will level-up their employee benefits to prevent a talent exodus

Marc Herold, Partner

After going through so much turmoil in 2021, employers will look to richen their employee benefits in order to retain and support their employees. This could be financial — lowering deductibles or co-insurance — or offering tools and services that provide more healthcare support to the employee.

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