Open Enrollment 2019: Cost-Saving Initiatives for Small to Medium-Sized Employers

The middle of autumn may bring many happy thoughts with it, but for small and medium-sized businesses especially, this time period means one thing: healthcare open enrollment. Unfortunately, this can feel like a hectic and confusing time as you don a second hat to plan your company’s offerings, ensure you stay in compliance, and answer employee questions. On top of that, the rising cost of benefits can become debilitating for many SMBs. Let’s look at what’s happening in this arena, including cost-saving initiatives and your duty as an employer.

The Cost of Healthcare Rises

If you feel your organization’s healthcare costs are going up, you’re not alone. Research indicates that the average cost per employee will be nearly $15,000 in 2019. While many of the companies in that study were large, Fortune 500 organizations, it still represents the crux of the problem. Costs are high across the board, but larger organizations are better equipped to absorb a 5% rise in cost better than a smaller company. Further, average deductibles are up 53% in the last 5 years, leaving many employees unhappy with their healthcare plans. It all adds up and makes this time of year increasingly difficult for HR reps and business leaders.

Cost-Saving Initiatives for 2019

As companies look at open enrollment for 2019, they inevitably consider ways to reduce healthcare costs. There are several current trends and initiatives to think about, some of which employers are adopting and some they are moving away from.

  • TelehealthIn one study, more than 50% of employers said their top healthcare initiative in 2019 is adding more virtual care solutions. Next year telehealth options will be more prevalent than ever as employees desire the added flexibility of receiving a consultation and prescription during a quick video chat. Not only do virtual care solutions eliminate hours wasted in waiting rooms, time which could potentially be spent in the office, but it represents a cheaper way of providing healthcare.


  • Consumer Directed Plans One third of employers utilize consumer directed health plans, but many are expected to move away from these offerings in 2019. These plans feature high deductibles which can lower monthly premiums and typically include an HSA the employer contributes to. This setup requires strong oversight and direction from the employer so that employees make the right decision for their personal situation. For that reason, it doesn’t always turn out to be the cheaper option it was intended to be and can become too difficult to manage.


  • Drug Considerations – Co-pay assistance programs and rebates offered by drug manufacturers directly to patients have been gaining ground. While these may help employees gain access to certain brand-name drugs, they can discourage the use of cheaper generic alternatives and cause added confusion when considering healthcare. Employers are expected to account for this more in 2019 to make sure plan deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket maximums maintain accuracy and compliance.


  • Direct Contracting – One method larger employers use to reduce healthcare costs and streamline processes is to contract directly with Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), Centers of Excellence (COEs), and medical facilities. Small and medium-sized businesses typically find this option to be impossible, but they do have an alternative. Partnering with the right PEO can connect a smaller workforce to a larger base, thereby increasing healthcare options, lowering cost, and getting healthcare administration off your plate.


Your Healthcare Duty as an Employer

Of course, as an employer you have a duty to do more than just try and cut costs. There are legal obligations to consider depending on your exact size and makeup, and there are also best practices from an employee satisfaction standpoint to take into account. One of the biggest points to bear in mind is that healthcare is confusing for employees. They can search for information on certain offerings on Google, but they’ll still bring their plan-specific questions to you. It’s your duty to play the critical role of educator, which first requires educating yourself.

With autumn in full swing, it may feel like it’s already too late to get educated or change your planned offerings for 2019. That doesn’t have to be the case. Engaging with a PEO like Synergy can connect your employees to affordable but robust 2019 healthcare plans while placing experts in charge of administration and questions. In other words, a PEO can take over your healthcare duties, obligations, and headaches.

Open Enrollment 2019: Cost-Saving Initiatives for Small to Medium-Sized Employers

There are so many factors that go into healthcare open enrollment that they can make your head spin. Large companies may have the staff and budget dedicated to working on healthcare initiatives, but it’s simply more difficult for those in small and mid-sized companies to absorb the extra work this time period brings. Properly managing healthcare while reducing costs requires the year-round dedication that a PEO can bring to your organization.

Let Synergy’s experts worry about healthcare so you can concentrate on your business. Get your free consultation today.


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Synergy Joins Group Management Services

Synergy is excited to be partnering with GMS, the largest privately held PEO in the country. Since 1989, countless organizations have trusted Synergy with their PEO and HR functions. This new partnership with GMS will enhance our ability to serve clients while providing the same high level of service our customers have come to know and expect.


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