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Most employers have recognized the strain that the pandemic has placed on their employees and renewed their health benefits plans without significant changes to cost-sharing and network plan design. Efforts to improve delivery systems and networks to improve outcomes, quality, cost, and the overall health care experience will continue to be overshadowed in 2021 by more critical issues associated with the pandemic.

What Employee Health Benefits Are Employers Prioritizing?

Remote Work Arrangements

86% of survey respondents in a QTI HR survey said they have and will continue to offer remote work arrangements after the pandemic. While return-to-work plans vary widely, 75% of respondents have some employees working on-site or have given employees the option to work on-site.

Health Spending Accounts (HSAs)

With nearly 50% of large company employees moving into high-deductible health plans, health reimbursement and HSAs are expected to rise sharply.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs

The pandemic has produced powerful data emphasizing the need to prioritize DEI, particularly as it relates to inequalities in race. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that Black and Latinx people are three times as likely to become infected and two times as likely to die from the virus as their white counterparts. Employers who identified DEI as a strategic priority were two-and-a-half times more likely to report high employee engagement and satisfaction levels.

Telehealth, Virtual Care, and Mental Health

The pandemic has certainly placed a spotlight on telehealth, virtual care, and mental health benefits for employers, forcing them to evaluate the effectiveness of their respective programs; this is likely driven by COVID-19, which has increased anxiety and depression and highlighted the connection between employee well-being and overall business performance.

In a Mercer Global survey, 32% of employers said they were expanding virtual or telehealth programs, while 25% said they were enhancing their mental health support. As a result, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are likely to increase in 2021 and beyond.

Financial Wellness Programs

Hoping to reduce financial stress and boost productivity in their employees, companies are focusing on financial wellbeing as well. According to a survey analysis by EBRI, the top financial wellness initiatives for employers post-pandemic will remain health care costs and retirement preparedness (with retirement planning and basic finance and budgeting as key areas of focus). However, personalized credit counseling, planning, and debt coaching are rapidly growing areas of focus for employers.

Health Care Cost-Containment Strategies Are Still King

Despite employers focusing on critical priorities related to COVID-19, their sights are still set on long-term cost control strategies. Specifically, per NAHPC’s survey, employers are still showing strong interest in:

Direct Primary Care / On-site and shared-site clinics
9 in 10 employers are considering value-based design approaches. 

Other Trending Employee Health Benefits Topics

The pandemic has resulted in the closure of many traditional childcare resources, placing parents in a balancing act between work and family responsibilities and forcing employers to address their policies related to sick leave, childcare, and elder care. As a result, employers are open to changing childcare assistance for employees with children and flexible work scheduling.

Additionally, employers are expected to evaluate whether their policies of bundling vacation and sick time into a shared bank endangers their workforces by encouraging “presenteeism” – or showing up to work while sick. (Currently, Wisconsin does not have laws that require employers to provide paid leave; legislative proposals to change this could be expected in the near future.)

Other well-being priorities for employers include enhancing behavioral health, diabetes, nutrition, weight management, and physical activity.

We know it seems early, but The Alliance is already thinking about employee health benefits for 2022. If you’re considering changes to your health plan, we can help you analyze your data to help make small changes for a big impact. Reach out to our Account Management team!

Employer Resources

To learn more about self insured health plans, check out our Smarter Self-Funded Health Plans page or email me – I’d love to answer your questions!


Benefit Plan Design Data & Analytics Health & Wellness High-Value Health Care News You Can Use Self-Funding


Members & Employers


Benefit Plan Design Data & Analytics Health & Wellness High-Value Health Care News You Can Use Self-Funding


Members & Employers
Mike Roche

Mike Roche
Director of Business Development at The Alliance

Mike Roche joined The Alliance as member services manager in 2015. He is responsible for working with Alliance employers on health benefit strategies; sharing data-based information to help members manage their health care spend; and serving as a voice of member employers. Mike has a strong background in health benefits and self-funding. He previously served as a regional sales advisor for Digital Benefits Advisors in Madison, Wis., where he managed the health benefits for more than 160 credit union clients across 14 states. Prior to that position, Mike worked at CUNA Mutual Group in their employee benefits division for almost 10 years as an employee benefits sales specialist. Mike has a bachelor’s degree with a double major in marketing and business administration and is licensed in both health and life insurance in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana.

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