Union benefit trends are constantly changing. Gone are the days of a basic, one-size-fits-all benefit package: Today's members expect robust offerings tailored to their needs.
That's actually a good thing, since it means that a diverse group of individuals is entering your member base. But ensuring that members have access to the comprehensive health benefits they want requires advance planning. Here are nine benefits your members will be looking for.
1. Dental Insurance
Dental insurance is often an add-on health insurance benefit rather than part of the core package. However, offering robust dental coverage encourages members to be proactive about their dental health with regular checkups and preventive care. This not only supports good oral health, but it also can actually improve the overall health of your members, since many chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease are associated with poor dental health.
2. Vision Insurance
As with dental insurance, members may expect vision to be part of their total benefits package, not an optional add-on service. It could be a worthwhile investment: Forgoing eye care can lead to untreated vision issues that increase the likelihood of on-the-job accidents. Members can also take advantage of vision checkups to monitor their long-term health, as ophthalmologists are able to detect an individual's likelihood of developing certain diseases.
3. Prescription Drug Coverage
Access to affordable prescription drugs helps members follow through on a doctor's plan of care. In fact, a number of studies have shown that broad prescription drug coverage improves patient outcomes, while a lack of coverage — and the subsequent higher out-of-pocket costs — makes them worse.
4. Mental Health Care
A holistic approach to health can help increase members' productivity and decrease absenteeism. However, it involves more than just identifying and treating physical ailments.
Members also need access to mental health services to help them address factors affecting their emotional and psychological well-being. Strong mental health translates to higher levels of engagement, workplace safety and happiness for your members.
5. Family Planning
Today's members want more than just basic maternity coverage. They're turning to their benefits for support throughout every stage of family planning. Consider adding coverage for costly family planning procedures such as IVF, egg freezing and surrogacy to help members navigate the financial side of starting a family.
6. Disease Management
Managing a chronic condition properly is expensive — for both members and employers. Including disease management options can make it more affordable. Whether in person, online or over the phone, taking advantage of disease management resources helps members stay on top of their health. Disease management encourages them to use more preventive services and early interventions as an alternative to costly trips to the ER and expensive treatments for health conditions.
Particularly for unions with younger members, creating the option to access health care services online, over the phone or through a mobile device appeals to members' desire for flexibility in their benefits. Aim to deliver that adaptability with benefit packages that allow for multiple ways to reach care. Having more versatile coverage may encourage members to seek the care they need at the onset of a health concern, when it will be more effective and less expensive.
8. Cost-Saving Programs
There are a variety of savings programs available, including health savings accounts (HSA), flexible spending accounts and health reimbursement accounts. Each of these will appeal to a different part of your member base. For example, the HSA may be particularly attractive if a significant portion of your membership is young, as it allows members to save pretax money for medical expenses. Contributions can also roll over from year to year, allowing a younger member to leverage the available funds if they start a family, have an unexpected medical expense or need more costly medical treatments as they age.
9. Accident and Disability Insurance
Giving members access to accident and disability insurance will help ensure that they can bear the financial burden of unexpected medical expenses after either routine injuries, such as broken bones, burns and concussions, or more severe harm that results in either temporary or permanent disability. Aim to give members the option to choose from different levels of coverage at various price points. That way, they can tailor their choice to their individual needs and gain peace of mind that an injury won't bankrupt them.
Utilizing union benefit trends as you plan for negotiations with employers is an important part of keeping your membership healthy, productive and safe on the job. Regularly seek feedback from members on which benefits are most important to them, what may be underutilized and what members want but can't currently access. Leverage this feedback — coupled with any data available from member health plans — to drive your benefit discussions and get members the care they need.
Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.