5 employee benefits trends for 2018

Employers may increasingly offer digital health programs and wellness initiatives among employee benefits next year as the GOP attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and debate healthcare costs, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Here are five trends experts predict in benefit design in 2018.

1. More health reimbursement arrangements. Employees can use these arrangements to pay for their portion of healthcare premiums and qualified medical expenses, such as lab fees, eye exams or prescriptions. Congress passed a law last year that permits smaller employers to use health reimbursement arrangements to pay for non-group plan health insurance premiums, which includes plans purchased on healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

2. More digital health offerings. There are a growing number of digital health tools that aim to help consumers manage their healthcare spending and decision-making. For example, Maven Clinic's Maven Maternity is a benefit offered to employees that provides expectant and new mothers with online and in-person healthcare.

3. Changes in employee wellness programs. Employers are increasingly moving away from cash incentives in their wellness programs, according to David Johnson, vice president and benefits consultant at Segal Consulting. Instead, as a less expensive option, employers are entering employees who meet wellness goals into a company lottery and giving them tickets to sporting events or theater events. Many employers are also offering health coaching and encouraging young, healthy employees to meet with a coach to learn about available wellness programs.

4. Student loan assistance. Some employers provide money toward employees' student loans, while others provide access to third parties that can offer a lower interest rate on refinanced student loans. Last January, Congress introduced a bill that would give employers a tax credit for assisting employees with student loan payments, which could be an incentive for more companies to offer this benefit.

5. Identity theft reiumbursement. As a result of several major data breaches this year, more employers may offer identity theft coverage, said Jeff Oldham, senior vice president at Benefitfocus. Identity theft insurance reimburses costs associated with solving ID theft issues, which can include costs to repair credit reports and attorney fees, according to the Information Insurance Institute.

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