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COVID-19 Spurs U.S. Employers to Explore Virtual-Directed Health Plans, Aon Report Finds
Cost-conscious employers aim to add virtual care and mental health benefits while steering members to affordable care

CHICAGO, Feb. 18, 2021 – Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, today released a new report finding that in a post-pandemic world, more U.S. employers are looking to add virtual care and mental health benefits while also steering employees to affordable, quality care options. The report, The New Better: Strategic Innovation in a Post Pandemic Environment, outlines employer priorities in health and benefits strategies based on surveys before and after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, consumer use of virtual visits with physicians and other health care providers has grown by more than 400%.* The shift in behavior has led many employers to say they are interested in exploring a virtual-directed health plan model, with 36% ready to explore a model with an online primary care platform that directs all care, including coordination with traditional health providers. Aon estimates that a virtual-directed model could reduce employer medical plan costs by as much as 15%.

The survey also highlights other ways the pandemic has pushed employers to adapt their health and benefits packages, including:

  • Digital health apps (47%), self-management tools (41%) and navigation and consumer engagement platforms (41%) have emerged as lead areas of interest for employers.
  • Mental health (72% ranked in the top 5) and work/life balance (57% ranked in the top 5) were cited as the two most important wellbeing issues. Mental health moved to the most mentioned issue in the latest survey in comparison to pre-COVID-19, when it was third highest. COVID-19 comes in third with 52% mentioning it as a top wellbeing issue. Financial stress, which was the top wellbeing issue pre-COVID-19, moved to fourth overall in importance.
  • Employers are eager to steer participants through plan design or other financial incentives to high-quality, cost-effective hospitals and physicians, with 45% of survey participants saying they were interested in implementing these features, while 32% already are steering members.
  • Employers are focused on creating an inclusive and diverse workforce in which all individuals feel valued and respected and have an equal opportunity to succeed. While 23% of firms indicate having benefit programs that effectively support and advance diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, half of the firms surveyed stated they were interested in adding this.

“Just like countless other aspects in our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate innovation and evolve future total rewards programs to build a more resilient workforce,” said Janet Faircloth, senior vice president for Aon’s Health Solutions. “Employers have the unique opportunity to enhance the value of their health and wellbeing benefits to better meet the career, financial and health needs of a wider spectrum of employees and improve the lives of millions of people in the process.”

For more information and to read the whole study, visit Read more about technology’s role in helping improve health.

* McKinsey Insights, Healthcare Systems and Services. Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post COVID-19 reality

Aon’s Client Insight team conducted two online surveys to measure perceptions both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first survey was conducted between December 2019 and January 2020 among 316 health and benefits leaders and the second survey was conducted between October and November 2020 among 222 leaders. All respondents were either existing or former clients of Aon.

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE: AON) is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance.

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