Original post benefitsnews.com

The number of employers offering a healthy living/incentive program grew in 2015, and is one of several trends to watch as the year 2016 unfolds, analysts say.

Plan design changes and programs such as incentive and wellness were of increasing interest to employers last year and most “continue to turn to their brokers and consultants to learn more about new health plan benefit designs and distribution models,” says Tiffany Wirth, executive director of the Healthcare Trends Institute.

“Helping employees better understand the value of provided benefits and making cost-conscious benefit decisions continues to remain important to employers,” she says.

The number of employers offering a healthy living/incentive program grew from 29.8% in 2014 to 34.6% in 2015, according to the HTI’s 2015 Healthcare Benefit Trends Benchmark Study.

During a webinar unveiling the results, Wirth said 21.8% of employers are considering such a program and 16.7% are still learning about them. About 1 in 4 employers (24.7%) indicated they weren’t interested in offering such a program.

“We’re starting to see these types of programs take hold as [healthcare] reform is being adopted and companies are pushing employees to understand their decisions, their purchases, and all of the different things that go along with healthcare benefits,” she says.

As part of incentive program tracking, HTI has also been examining what sort of wellness programs companies are implementing, Wirth says.

Almost half (44.6%) offer at least one type of wellness program, the survey found. Thirty-one percent offer biometric screenings and about 30% offer an opportunity for health risk management.

Key differences from the 2014 benchmark study, Wirth says, included the ranking of top benefits offered by employers. The three highest company-offered employee benefits in 2014 (PPO, family plan and prescription drug) continued to rank high in 2015, but dental came in at No. 1 this year, with about 74% of employers offering it.

More than half (52.1%) of respondents said they had some familiarity with defined contribution plans and private exchanges, with the majority of those who indicated they were interested in offering a DCP identifying 2017 as the year they would likely do so.

Wirth says continued interest is growing among employers to learn and understand more about DCPS.