female doctor talking to a male patient
From the incorporation of AI, to business owners educating themselves more on mental health, employee health insurance in 2019 is seeing several new changes. — Getty Images/Adene Sanchez

Offering employee health insurance can be complicated and expensive for small business owners. If you’re not required by law to offer it to your employees, you may be tempted to skip it.

However, a recent survey by Glassdoor found that health insurance is the most highly desired benefit a company can offer its employees. Offering health insurance not only keeps your employees healthier, it can improve your company culture. Here are three things you need to know about employee health insurance in 2019.

The ACA is here to stay in 2019

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been in the news frequently the past few years. Most recently, a Texas judge ruled that the core provisions in the ACA are unconstitutional. The Trump Administration applauded this ruling, which led many people to wonder if the ACA is going away.

The short answer is no — the ACA isn’t going anywhere in 2019. This means that companies with more than 50 employees are required to offer health insurance to all full-time employees. Employers also must file proof of coverage with the IRS.

However, the Individual Mandate is no longer in effect as of January 1, 2019. Employees are no longer required to sign up for ACA-compliant health insurance, nor are they at risk of paying a fine if they choose to not enroll.

As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, employees are no longer satisfied with poor customer service and overly complicated plans.

Mental health coverage will be a primary focus

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a press release in April 2019 announcing that it is launching a toolkit to help employers understand mental health issues. The EARN mental health toolkit will include case studies and can serve as a guide to help employers create a supportive workplace.

It will also explain how employers can provide access to treatment for mental health issues. This is an important step forward because, traditionally, insurance plans put mental health coverage on the backburner.

Increasingly, employees are recognizing the importance of mental health and taking steps to address issues like stress, anxiety, depression and addiction. American Express and Adobe already offer mental health programs for their employees. You can expect more companies to follow suit in 2019 and in the coming years.

[For more, see: Small Business Health Insurance.]

Expect AI to disrupt employee health insurance

As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, employees are no longer satisfied with poor customer service and overly complicated plans. In a market that’s becoming increasingly personalized to customer expectations, health care plan options will start to adjust to these changing preferences.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will rapidly change the healthcare industry. According to a 2018 McKinsey report, the number of insurance agents will be reduced dramatically by 2030. Instead, most health insurance companies will rely on chatbots. For example, ZhongAn Tech, an online-only insurance company in China, found a way to deliver high quality service by using chatbots to answer 97% of customer inquiries.

U.S. companies have also begun to adopt similar technological methods. In 2018, Cigna introduced Answers by Cigna, which is a “skill” for Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. By activating the ‘Answers by Cigna’ skill with Alexa, members of Cigna (who also have an Amazon Alexa device) can obtain information and simple-to-understand answers to common questions about their benefits.

AI will also transform healthcare claims, making them faster and more efficient.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published April 30, 2019