The COVID-19 pandemic has caused arguably the most significant disruption to healthcare in our lifetimes. Some healthcare officials are now saying the COVID-19 virus could become endemic – meaning we will have to live with the virus forever, and vaccine makers will have to produce new vaccines as the virus mutates. The good news is that the vaccine has been made available and herd immunity could be reached as early as this summer. Additionally, we have enough data from 2020 to enable self-funded employers to predict what’s coming for workplace healthcare and how to act on it.
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Workplace Healthcare
One of the main areas of healthcare that was impacted by COVID-19 in 2020 was elective or optional surgeries. Elective surgeries aren’t always optional, just that they were scheduled to be done rather than being considered an immediate emergency. Optional surgeries were down in 2020 for obvious reasons. In turn, this could produce a spike in optional surgeries in 2021 and beyond as virus-based restrictions are further removed nationwide.
Workplaces Go Virtual
Within a few short months in spring 2020, virtual conferencing software was being used by employers more than ever before. Remote work and work from home became more prevalent than ever. Having employees that work from home has its challenges and its benefits when it comes to healthcare. Paperwork, doctor visits, and other health-related issues that could otherwise be easily conducted online were forced to happen virtually.
A typical pattern of healthcare for a patient had seen a significant disruption by the virus. Another major part of this disruption is the increase in telemedicine. Healthcare industry analysts project that all telemedicine visits in the U.S. cost more than $30 billion in 2020. Telehealth visits rose 38% from 2019 to 2020, and more than half of Americans had at least one telehealth visit in 2020.
An Increase in Costs
As the number of virtual healthcare visits rise, so do their costs. Telehealth visits could double from 2019-2021. Utilizing telemedicine is likely here to stay for 2021 and 2022, maybe even beyond. This increase in telehealth costs is something self-funded employers must keep an eye on this year. Adjustments to healthcare budgets might be necessary, so employers must ensure their payment structure is in place for their employees.
Another significant cost for employers due to COVID-19 is the cost of testing for the virus. Employers who have employees that can work from home don’t have to administer tests nearly as much – however, some employees might want to be compensated for getting a test.
Ditching Low-Value Care
The pandemic has also caused employers to scrutinize what is considered “low-value care” to save on self-funded healthcare costs. Low-value care that provides no medical benefits were cut from health plans, as well as less expensive alternative treatments. COVID-19 has forced everyone, not just employers, to determine what kind of healthcare is the most important.
Adding Stop-Loss Will Help
In this unprecedented time, self-funded healthcare costs are as unpredictable as ever. Adding a stop-loss plan will help. If you are ready to add a stop-loss policy to your self-funded workplace healthcare, contact Prodigy today.