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Mental health and healthcare benefits finding their footing amidst uncertainty

Employers 05.16.2022 5 MIN

Mental health and healthcare benefits are changing to fit the evolving needs of employees across Corporate America. If your company isn’t keeping up, you could get left behind when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent.

Trends in mental health benefits

Long avoided altogether or relegated to hushed conversations, employees and employers alike are finally starting to recognize the critical role mental health plays in an individual’s overall wellness. In fact, 86% of employers identify mental health, stress and burnout as a major threat for their workforces.1

Investing in mental health benefits shows employees that their employers look after their whole lives—not just their work lives. These programs can help employers improve employee productivity, reduce use of sick time and decrease health insurance costs.


of Ayco’s corporate partners currently offer some type of mental health support, a 36% increase from 2020 to 2022.

Source: Ayco Benefits & Compensation. Data is based on review of 310 Ayco Corporate partners as of January 2022.

Mental health coverage has traditionally been provided through health plans and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Many of Ayco’s corporate partners are taking a closer look at the implementation of these benefits and evaluating their effectiveness. Some have found their platforms for mental and emotional well-being assistance are being underutilized. This has led companies to offer additional resources to support employee mental health, including:

  • Telehealth services. Over the last two years, we’ve seen a vast majority of companies and health insurance carriers begin offering these services. Utilization is 38 times higher than it was pre-pandemic.2 These services offer greater convenience to employees. Additionally, Congress has passed another temporary deductible exemption for telehealth services from April 1 through December 31, 2022
  • Mental health and well-being apps. These apps (such as Calm, Talkspace, Headspace and meQuilibrium) have become popular complements to EAPs and other mental health plans benefits
  • Paid “mental health” days off. Employers are also encouraging employees to use PTO for occasional mental health days
  • “Office hours” with HR. Companies have implemented dedicated time to educate employees on available benefits
  • Flexible work hours and short, daily breaks. This is especially common for those with children


Health plan options are changing

Companies are looking for ways to help employees with the cost of healthcare. Gone are the days of the “full replacement” trend of offering only high deductible health plans (HDHPs) to employees. In an attempt to provide more flexibility and planning options when it comes to covering the cost of healthcare, the majority of Ayco’s corporate partners currently offer a combination of traditional health plans and HDHPs.



of companies offer a HDHP with at least two other types of medical plans


of companies offer a combination of traditional and HDHP in 2022, up from 60% in 2020

Source: Ayco Benefits & Compensation. Data is based on review of 310 Ayco Corporate partners as of January 2022.

Source: Ayco Benefits & Compensation. Data is based on review of 310 Ayco Corporate partners as of January 2022.

Incentivizing saving for healthcare

Of Ayco’s corporate partners that do offer an HDHP option, close to 90% make contributions to their employees’ health savings accounts (HSAs). Historically, these contributions have been a fixed, annual dollar amount. 

In recent years, employers have looked for new ways to incentivize saving for healthcare expenses. Almost 25% of Ayco’s partners have restructured their HSA plans to include a company match—doing away with the fixed contribution—and/or provide additional dollars for completing certain wellness initiatives.

Source: Ayco Benefits & Compensation. Data is based on review of 310 Ayco Corporate partners as of January 2022.

Employers are also providing education to help employees understand the long-term benefits of saving and investing with their HSA. Ayco’s Financial Wellness service includes multiple approaches to this goal:

  1. Unlimited sessions with a professional financial planner who can provide personalized guidance on HSAs and other company benefits.
  2. Group education sessions, including topical deep dives on health savings accounts.


Cost control strategies

As healthcare costs have continued to rise, companies have taken various measures to control their own healthcare-related costs as well—implementing both surcharges and incentives.

Spousal and tobacco surcharges have been on the rise for several years.

  • 30% of Ayco’s corporate partners now assess a spousal surcharge to premiums for employees who elect coverage for their spouse or domestic partner when their spouse or partner has access to their own employer coverage. The most common surcharge is $100/month, but we have seen some as high as $300/month
  • Even more companies (40%) have added some form of a tobacco surcharge. The amounts can vary widely from $12/month to $150/month. Some employers have opted for the opposite approach, offering premium discounts, wellness incentives and HSA credits for those who don’t use tobacco
  • The newest surcharge this year is for employees who have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine. Only 3% of our corporate partners have implemented these surcharges, but we may see an increase as COVID variants continue to appear and more companies strive for a fully-vaccinated workforce


Wellness incentive programs

Over 70% of Ayco’s corporate partners offered some form of a wellness incentive program for 2022. Wellness incentive programs typically provide premium discounts, cash payments or credits to HSAs and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

Many of the typical activities that result in a wellness credit have been impacted by COVID-19 over the last couple years. Companies have adjusted their wellness programs to accommodate for these issues and the continuation of COVID-related issues into 2022.

Some solutions companies are implementing include:

  • Expanding credits beyond physical wellness to financial wellness by adding incentives tied to the use of benefits such as the EAP, legal plan and financial wellness coaching
  • Using outside medical facilities to complete biometric screening or replacing biometric screenings with virtual health assessments
  • Adding online exercise classes/workouts to addition to regular gym membership/attendance
  • Offering at-home/mail-in health screenings


Several innovative companies are beginning to offer employees incentives for opting out of their company’s health coverage. Just under 3% of our corporate partners currently offer employees some form of “opt-out” incentive, like:

  • A monthly cash credit ranging from $20-$200/month
  • A $7,000 HRA contribution (offered by one company)

1 Willis Towers Watson, 2021 Wellbeing Diagnostic Survey, 2022

2 McKinsey & Company, “Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?” July 2021


Offering a comprehensive financial wellness benefit reflects your company’s culture and shows your employees you value them. Interested in empowering your employees to take control of their financial lives? Learn more about how Ayco can help.