Employers are tweaking health benefits amid COVID-19. Will workers take advantage of it?

Health insurance form payer plan enroll
A new survey looks at how employers are reacting to the demands of COVID-19. (Valeriya/Getty)

Employers are making adjustments to their health benefits in the wake of COVID-19, but workers may not take the time to consider these new options, a survey from Fidelity shows.

Fidelity found that more than a quarter (27%) of employers have made changes to their health benefits since the pandemic began in March. 

However, the survey also found that despite these changes, 79% of employees said they don't expect to spend additional time evaluating benefit offerings compared to years past.

“If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that this is not a typical year and arguably, we are approaching the most important annual enrollment we will ever experience in our lifetime and we cannot simply default our benefits like we may have done in previous years,” said Hope Manion, chief health and welfare actuary and senior vice president at Fidelity Workplace Consulting, in a statement.

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In particular, employers are building up their mental health and wellbeing offerings, as behavioral health needs among workers spike due to COVID-19.

These results put a spotlight on the opportunity employers have to more effectively educate their workforce on their benefit options so they can make the choices that best fit their needs, according to the study.

This is especially true as the pandemic continues, with a vaccine on the horizon but not yet available, Fidelity's researchers said.

For example, 92% of workers said they're aware their employer offers a health savings account, but many choose to pass on those accounts and the attached high-deductible health plans because they don't understand how to take advantage of them, according to the survey.

Fidelity found that 89% of workers who actively use their HSAs report a "positive impact" on their lives.

There is also evidence that workers are not making contributions to HSAs even when they do select them, in large part because doing so is not top of mind. A recent study found more than half of workers with an HSA have not made a contribution in the past year, with 36.8% saying they had not considered a contribution.