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Many employees aren’t satisfied with their employer’s benefit plan and feel their plan doesn’t meet their needs. Almost 6 in 10 employees said their employer’s health plan was not aligned with their needs. And only 35% of employees trust their employer to design a benefit plan in their best interest. This is a serious concern for employers because when employees are dissatisfied with their benefits, they are more likely to leave their job for an organization with a benefit plan that meets their needs.

Employers want to take care of their employees and provide benefits that will help them stay healthy and productive. But in a time when saving money and making strategic decisions is important, it’s hard to know which benefits to focus on. Read on to learn which benefits are most important to employees and some unique benefits that can give employers an advantage in attracting and retaining top talent.

Mental and Behavioral Health Services

The desire for mental and behavioral health services has been increasing in recent years. According to a KFF survey, about one in four adults experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. The CDC states one in seven adults report experiencing a substance use disorder and 90% of Americans feel the country is facing a mental health crisis.   

Reflecting this desire for mental health care, most employees now expect their employers to provide some kind of behavioral health benefits. A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found 81% of respondents cited mental health services coverage as an important consideration when considering a job. So, if employers want to remain competitive, they will need to expand and improve their mental and behavioral health coverage to meet the expectations of both current and prospective employees.

Employers can expand access to mental and behavioral health services by including virtual providers in their health plan and providing access to online mental and emotional wellness resources like apps and on-demand videos. Another way employers can support their employees’ mental health is by offering wellness programs, flexible hours, and employee time off. When employees feel they have better work-life balance and the ability to take care of themselves and their families, they are generally less stressed, healthier and more productive.

Virtual Care and Telehealth

In addition to mental and behavioral health services, the demand for virtual care options has also increased. Designing benefit plans to include virtual care and telehealth providers is a great opportunity for employers to expand access to care for their employees.

Telehealth services, including virtual primary care, can be an efficient solution for preventative services like consultations, screenings, and counseling. Using virtual care allows employees to prioritize their health while taking less time out of their day to commute to appointments. Some virtual care providers also offer appointments outside of traditional office hours, 24/7 access to care or same-day appointments. The convenience of virtual care is a win-win because when employees are able to take care of their health, they are typically healthier, more productive, and more loyal to their organization.

Pet Insurance

According to Pets Best, offering pet insurance as a voluntary benefit is a smart move for employers. Pet ownership has increased in recent years. Now 70% of households in the US are pet owners. Of those pet owners, 57% would “prefer to work for an employer who values pet ownership, while 23% consider it a must.”  Younger employees are even more likely to desire pet benefits from a business, with 60% of Gen Z pet parents citing pet-friendliness as a top concern when considering a job.

In addition to offering pet insurance plans to support employees’ financial wellness and ability to pay veterinary bills, employers can offer paid time off for vet appointments and flexible hours so employees can walk their pet or spend time with them during the workday. Offering pet benefits can build trust and increase productivity and loyalty with employees and give employers an advantage in a tight labor market.

Fertility Benefits

Many people in the US require some type of fertility services, but the high out-of-pocket cost (ranging from $5,000 – $75,000) makes fertility care inaccessible to some people. Private insurance plans typically cover diagnostics services, but there is currently little coverage for treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), which are more expensive.

According to Carrot, a global fertility benefits company, “fertility benefits are no longer a nice-to-have — they’re a must-have benefit for companies looking to offer inclusive support for their employees and save costs during an uncertain economy.” Not only does offering fertility benefits boost employee satisfaction, but it can also help employers manage and even reduce their healthcare costs. In fact, 97% of companies who began offering fertility benefits did not have an increase in costs.

In addition to the financial aspect, undergoing fertility treatments can be stressful, time consuming, and draining. Employers can also support their employees’ emotional wellness during this time by offering support and flexibility. Offering fertility benefits like care navigation, emotional support, and flexible hours can help make the process less stressful so employees can focus on what matters most.

Student Loan Benefit

Millions of Americans have student loan debt – totaling $1.6 trillion at the end of 2022. Student loan debt can cause financial and emotional stress for employees, creating difficulties both inside and outside of work.

By offering student loan benefits, employers can help reduce stress for employees while giving themselves a competitive advantage. The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2021 allows employers to offer employees up to $5,250 a year tax-free for student loan repayment until 2025. Employers can offer student loan benefits through recurring payments or in a lump sum like a sign-on bonus. The amount can be static or based on how much an employee contributes to their 401k, like a company match. Another option for student loan benefits is to allow employees to trade vacation time for loan repayment. 

When employees are not as financially and emotionally stressed, they can be more productive. Employees who are not stressed are also more likely to have positive feelings about their work and be more loyal to their employer. Almost 90% of employees said they would commit to their organization for 5 years if their employer helped pay back their student loans. Student loan benefits can also help employers attract the next generation of talent. Over 40% of recent college graduates said student loan repayments were in their top 3 desired benefits when considering a new job. Offering student loan benefits can help employers attract and retain top talent.

Customized Network and Cost Sharing

Employers can tailor their benefits to their employee population to save money and provide benefits that better support their employees.


Most employers have one premium and cost-sharing strategy for all employees regardless of income level, however, lower earners are disproportionately affected by higher healthcare costs than higher earners. According to KFF, for low-income employees, even a $1 to $5 change in cost sharing is associated with reduced healthcare utilization. This is because people with lower incomes spend a larger portion of their income on health premiums and out-of-pocket expenses than people with higher income levels. Employers could remove a major barrier to care by tailoring the premiums or cost sharing to their employees’ income level. For example, employers could have different cost sharing for hourly workers and c-suite executives.


Self-funded employers can save a significant amount on their healthcare spend by customizing their network. Employers should first think about the geography of their employee population and make sure there are high-value, in-network providers that are close so employees do not have to travel for care. This will increase the chance that employees utilize preventative care and catch potential issues before they become more costly and dangerous to treat.

Employers should also consider the rate of chronic conditions in their employee population. For example, if an employee population has a higher level of a chronic condition like diabetes, the employer can prioritize high-value providers that treat that condition in their network and design their benefit plan to encourage employees to use these providers. The Alliance Premier Networks allow employers to incentivize their employees to utilize high-value providers while still offering a broad range of choice with the Comprehensive Network.

When thinking about which health, financial, and lifestyle benefits to include in a benefit plan, it’s important to think about the employee population and decide which benefits are most important to them. Too many benefits can actually lead to employees making poor benefit choices or no choice at all. So, it’s better to have a well-designed, effective plan that meets the needs of your employees than to have a plan with too many medium-value options.

Reach out to our Business Development team to learn how The Alliance can help you optimize your benefit plan for your employees while managing your healthcare spend.


Benefit Plan Design Self-Funding


Members & Employers


Benefit Plan Design Self-Funding


Members & Employers
Paul Roelke

Paul Roelke
Former Manager of Member Services

Paul Roelke joined The Alliance in 2013 and currently serves as Manager of Member Services where he leads the team responsible for developing and implementing services and solutions for employer-sponsored health benefit plans. Paul has more than 15 years of experience in benefits and insurance, including positions with UMR and Wellpoint. Paul received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has held his Wisconsin insurance license since 2003.

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