Healthcare Use is on the Rise and May Stay That Way for the Next Coming Years

Almost 95% of U.S. employers surveyed expect to see increased demand for medical services due to employees deferring care because of the pandemic. More than 90% are concerned about their employees’ long-term mental health because of COVID-19, according to a survey of 136 large employers by the Business Group on Health.

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving up demand for healthcare, and that trend could continue well into the coming years, according to a survey of major U.S. employers.

Almost 95% of those surveyed expect to see increased demand for medical services due to employees deferring care because of the pandemic. More than 90% are concerned about their employees’ long-term mental health because of COVID-19, according to a survey of 136 large employers by the Business Group on Health.

At the same time, more than three-quarters expect employees will have an increased need for help managing chronic conditions, and almost 70% expect a higher prevalence of late-stage cancers due to delayed screenings, the 2022 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey found.

The employers expect healthcare spending will jump about 6% both this year and next. In comparison, there was no overall change in spending last year. Employers reported a range from a 10% increase in spending for 2020, to a 12% decrease, resulting in no change overall.

To combat the mental health challenges caused by the pandemic, three-quarters of those surveyed said providing access to mental health care will be a major area of focus in 2022, and many will focus on addressing the stigma surrounding behavioral health care.

Virtual healthcare has been a major force in providing care for behavioral health issues as well as for addressing physical health concerns during the pandemic, and the use of telehealth is expected to continue next year.

At the same time, employers are expected to put an increasing emphasis on on-site healthcare clinics, which can provide COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, and help employees manage their chronic conditions.

More than 50% of those surveyed had on-site clinics by 2017, but that dropped to 44% with the start of the pandemic in 2020. Now 57% say they will have or are considering having an on-site clinic by 2024.