Health benefit costs are expected to grow by almost 4% in 2020, according to the early results from a survey of employer-sponsored health plans released by human resources consultancy Mercer on September 19.
Based on responses from 1,511 U.S, employers, the survey projects that the average total health benefits cost per employee will rise by 3.9% in 2020. Researchers observed that while this growth rate continues the trend of low single-digit increases that began in 2012, health benefit costs are still rising faster than overall inflation.
The survey also found that cost-shifting to employees is expected to play a smaller role in 2020 than in recent years, with just 43% of responding employers saying that they intend to raise deductibles or otherwise cut benefits to hold down costs in 2020. Researchers reported that the underlying medical trend, or the amount costs would increase if employers renewed plans without making any changes, has decreased from 8% in 2014 to 5.2% in 2020, which may have eased some of the pressure to make short-term cost reductions.
Researchers also pointed out that in recent years, employers have been adopting strategies for reducing costs via improved health outcomes, such as providing targeted support for specific health conditions and encouraging plan members to use higher-quality providers. For example, 39% of employers with 500 or more employees surveyed in 2019 reported that they provide access to a Center of Excellence (COE) for cardiology, bariatric surgery, cancer, and other complex treatments. Moreover, 16% of these employers said they steer employees to the COE through lower cost-sharing, or even require them to use it.
The survey findings further suggested that in support of providing higher-quality care, employers continue to add technology-enabled programs designed to help members with specific health issues, such as diabetes, insomnia, and infertility. The results showed, for example, that 62% of respondents with 500 or more employees reported offering one or more of these targeted solutions in 2019, compared to 55% in 2018.
In addition, the survey found that access to health benefits information and resources is increasing, as of the employers with 500 or more employees surveyed in 2019, 40% said that all or most of their benefit offerings are accessible to employees on a single, fully-integrated digital platform, most often through a smartphone app; up from 34% surveyed in 2018.
As many Americans lack confidence that they will enjoy a financially secure retirement, significant shares say that having a guaranteed lifetime income is one of their top retirement planning goals, the results of a recent survey conducted by financial services provider TIAA indicated.
Published on September 23, TIAA’s “2019 Lifetime Income Survey” includes responses from 901 Americans between the ages of 25 and 73 who completed an online questionnaire in May and June 2019. The aim of the survey was to uncover the factors that contribute to and detract from people’s financial confidence, and to assess their attitudes toward financial products that can guarantee lifetime income.
When asked about their confidence in various financial aspects of retirement, just 35% of respondents expressed a high level of confidence that they will be able to maintain a good standard of living throughout retirement; 31% said they are very confident that they will feel financially secure throughout their life, including in retirement; 28% said they are highly confident they will never run out of money in retirement; and, of the respondents who are still working, 25% indicated they are very confident that they will be able to retire when they want to.
Broken down by generation, the survey results showed that baby boomer respondents expressed far higher levels of confidence in their financial preparation for retirement than younger respondents, with Generation X respondents reporting even lower levels of confidence than millennials. For example, while 53% of baby boomers said they are confident that they will be able to maintain a good standard of living in retirement, just 28% of millennials and 22% of Gen Xers indicated that they feel equally confident.
The survey also asked respondents how concerned they are about certain financial events occurring. The results indicated that the majority of the adults surveyed are worried about a major unexpected expense (54%), a major medical expense (53%), and significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare (53%); and that significant shares are also concerned about a major market decline (45%) and an increase in inflation (41%).
In addition, the findings indicated that of those respondents who participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, 69% cited guaranteed income for life as one of their top two goals for their retirement plan, and 45% said that guaranteed income for life is their top goal. Researchers pointed out that the respondents were more likely to rank having a guaranteed lifetime income as one of their top two goals than keeping their savings safe regardless of what happens in the market (56%), earning a competitive rate of return on their savings (46%), or saving a specific amount of money (28%). Among the reasons the respondents cited for valuing an investment product that provides guaranteed lifetime income were that it gives them a feeling of financial security (60%), and that it makes it easier to save for retirement (46%).
When asked to name the factors that most increase their long-term financial confidence, the leading factor cited by respondents was saving regularly (40%), with smaller shares mentioning saving aggressively (21%), understanding how to pay down their debt (20%), receiving a guaranteed lifetime income from a traditional pension plan (18%), and having diversified investments (15%). However, 52% of respondents admitted that they did not save as much as they should have in 2018, including 22% who indicated that they saved a lot less than they should have.
The findings also suggested that while Americans value knowing how much income they will have in retirement, there is still considerable confusion surrounding financial vehicles that guarantee lifetime income. The survey found, for example, that 32% of respondents who indicated that they have an employer-provided retirement plan said they do not know whether their plan offers an investment option that guarantees lifetime income; and that among those who said they think that guaranteed lifetime income is available in their plan, significant shares demonstrated that they incorrectly believe that mutual funds (35%) and target date funds (20%) secure lifetime income.
When questioned about their sources of financial advice, the respondents were most likely to report that they rely on a professional financial advisor (36%), followed by their employer or retirement plan provider (32%), their spouse or partner (29%), and online retirement or income calculators (27%). The survey found that those respondents who indicated that they rely on a financial advisor expressed more confidence in their ability to always be financially secure, never run out of money, and maintain their lifestyle in retirement than those who said they do not.