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Amid Pandemic, 53% of California Employers Prefer Health Plans with High-Quality Providers Over Low-Cost Plans; 86% Will Pay More for Top-Quality Networks

As more companies shift workforces to home offices, the First Annual Health Net Employer Survey found nearly half of California employers prefer health plans with increased telehealth and virtual-care options

The COVID-19 pandemic has California employers thinking differently about healthcare. That’s the conclusion of the First Annual Health Net Employer Survey. When researchers asked California health benefit managers to rank priorities, the study found that:

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“As more companies shift to a work-from-home model, they’re telling us that offering the highest-quality care is a huge factor in their decision-making. Traditionally, many employers opt for smaller provider networks to control costs, so the study’s findings signal a fundamental shift in the attitudes of California businesses.”

  • Fifty-three percent (53%) of businesses preferred offering health plans that featured high-quality care providers
  • Less than half of employers (42%) prioritized low-cost plans with smaller provider networks
  • Eighty-six percent (86%) of employers would pay more for plans with the best-rated health care providers

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“Employers realize that they need to repackage their healthcare benefits when the needs of their employees change,” said Brian Ternan, CEO of Health Net. “As more companies shift to a work-from-home model, they’re telling us that offering the highest-quality care is a huge factor in their decision-making. Traditionally, many employers opt for smaller provider networks to control costs, so the study’s findings signal a fundamental shift in the attitudes of California businesses.”

The survey’s results reflect other impacts of the pandemic, as well. For example:

  • Seventy-one percent (71%) of health benefit decision-makers surveyed reported their employees having to switch doctors because of the pandemic; of this group, 93% said they expect employees to pick health plans with in-network doctors close to them.
  • Forty-two percent (42%) of employers preferred health plans with telehealth and virtual-care options; these allow employees to engage providers and use resources while practicing social distancing.

Study Background Information and Methodology

The First Annual Health Net Employer Survey was conducted by Upwave (formally Survata) in October 2020 as California employers approached the open-enrollment period. The study surveyed 200 health benefit managers at larger California employers with at least 100 employees. Of note, 76% of those studied represented employers that provided benefits to employees in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information about methodology,

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