The employee benefits landscape has evolved rapidly over the past few years, as companies and health plans adjust to economic volatility, a changing work landscape after the pandemic, and shifting employee and member needs. Women’s and family health benefits continue to be a top priority, but benefits leaders can’t just stick with the status quo. Employees, members, and their families need more support—and to stay competitive, employers and health plans need to align their benefits with some of the top trends shaping the industry going into 2024. 

Read on for our top predictions of the main trends in women’s and family health benefits in 2024, and what employers and health plans can do to make a difference. 

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Reflecting on 2023

Before diving into 2024 trends, let’s start by looking back to 2023 and the successes—and challenges—the year brought. 

We saw rising costs across the board, including healthcare, shrinking budgets, and a slate of layoffs across industries. Employees struggled with inflation and burnout as they tried to balance work and family, as well as long waits and limited availability for family healthcare services like fertility care. 

In this shifting environment, we saw employees and members turning their company and health plans and asking for more support. In many cases, the status quo simply wasn’t working anymore. In response, some companies stepped up to the plate, offering better care for members as they navigated starting and raising a family in an uncertain environment. Family-building care of some form is now becoming table stakes for many organizations, while a groundswell movement around menopause support started. 

But budgets were tight for many companies, and benefits leaders had to make tough decisions in the care they offer to try to balance comprehensive support with limited funds.

Against that landscape, we look forward to 2024. What can we expect from this upcoming year? What trends should HR and plan leaders be aware of as they weigh their benefits offerings? 

Key women’s and family health trends in 2024

Trend #1: Focusing on managed care to combat rising costs

Healthcare costs are expected to rise significantly in 2024, with forecasts suggesting that employer healthcare costs will increase by 7%. These increased costs will strain already tight budgets facing benefits teams. Because of this, we predict that employers and health plans alike are going to be even more strategic with their benefits investments going into 2024. 

Gone are the days of simply covering care, like just offering a stipend to cover fertility treatments. In 2024, we expect to see more employers taking a more active role in empowering employees with the best care. 

Link to video clip & full webinar

“Employers, health plan insurers, and providers should all have the best intent of the employee at their core,” said Lara Houseman, Benefit Design Director at Elevance Health, during a recent Maven webinar. “That doesn't mean just throwing money at the problem—instead, it means real solutions and supporting employees to get the best outcomes based on their goals.”

What could this look like? For some companies, it could mean working with a fertility benefits partner that connects employees to comprehensive fertility care that treats lifestyle factors before the clinic, as well as offers a network of high-quality clinics with transparent pricing and reimbursements for employees. For others, it could mean providing menopause support that extends beyond HRT prescriptions and focuses on coaching, mental health care, and treating lifestyle factors that may worsen menopause symptoms. 

Trend #2: Leaning into menopause support

Menopause, once a taboo subject in the workplace, is now starting to gain the attention it deserves.  Companies and health plans are becoming aware of the urgent need to better support people as they navigate menopause. 

While many of the headlines focused on the stigma around menopause, we’re still not seeing the necessary shift to actually address the stigma facing menopausal people in the workplace. Many companies have lacked the knowledge or resources necessary to effectively move the needle, which affects companies’ bottom lines. The estimated global productivity losses attributed to menopause top $150 billion a year, and studies show that around 20% of people have quit or considered quitting their jobs because of menopause symptoms. 

“I see a lot of parallels between the stigma of menopause and the stigma around behavioral health,” said Houseman. “I think the more we talk about it and the more we embrace menopause as a normal part of our daily lives, the easier it is to break down the taboo.”

“I think the more we talk about it and the more we embrace menopause as a normal part of our daily lives, the easier it is to break down the taboo.”

In 2024, we expect to see an increased focus on expanding menopause benefits at work. Employers and health plans can no longer offer the bare minimum when it comes to menopause care and combating stigma. Providing employees with comprehensive menopause support can give them essential resources to take charge of their midlife health, significantly changing the trajectory of employees’ long-term health and career success. 

Trend #3: Redefining fertility benefits

The focus on fertility benefits has been growing steadily over the years, and this trend is poised to evolve further in 2024. But we’ve seen a lot of misinformation around fertility treatments. Employees and members are being confronted with misleading information every time they log into social media, which may tell them that egg freezing is a guarantee for fertility preservation, or that they need to start invasive fertility treatments immediately if they’re having trouble conceiving. 

We see these viewpoints reflected in some of the fertility benefits solutions available to employers and their employees. Some only offer access to fertility treatments like IUI and IVF, while others simply offer reimbursements for fertility care. While these services are important—and an improvement from where we were a decade ago—they also overlook all of the other factors that affect fertility and those that make fertility benefits genuinely beneficial to employees. 

We predict in 2024, the fertility benefits industry will continue to shift and expand to more comprehensive managed care. Companies will invest in benefits that connect employees and members with providers who can help evaluate and address lifestyle factors that may affect fertility before referring patients to treatments. We also expect that employers will focus on providing much-needed access to mental health support for those navigating physical or social infertility. 

We also expect that many companies will work to make payment and reimbursement for fertility treatments easier to understand and manage for health plans, employers, and employees & members alike. 

“Support is the number one thing employers and plans can do for those seeking fertility treatments,” said Houseman. “Financial assistance can be second, but we don’t necessarily want members to have to seek IVF or any of the more difficult and more expensive treatments as their first step. Why not work on lifestyle first?” 

Maven’s State of Women’s and Family Health Benefits 2024

How fertility, maternal health, and Gen Z are transforming benefits decisions.

Access the findings
Maven’s State of Women’s and Family Health Benefits 2024

Trend #4: Broadening the focus on health equity

The U.S. is facing a maternal mortality crisis and has the highest maternal death rate of any developed country, and Black and Alaska Native/American Indian women are three times more likely to die from childbirth-related causes than white women. Improving outcomes has been–and continues to be—a key area of focus for health plans and employers alike.

In 2024, we predict that employers and health plans will be more expansive and ambitious in their focus on health equity. Factors like geography, age, and gender are also strong levers that affect the quality of care that employees and members receive. When these factors intersect with identities like race or sexual orientation, it can further exacerbate care gaps. 

 For example, people experiencing menopause, who are generally over the age of 40, are receiving inadequate care. Black women report worse menopause symptoms than white women, yet also don’t receive the care they need. 

For many people, cost is the main barrier to care. Fertility treatments can often be incredibly expensive in the U.S, with one round of IVF costing upwards of $30,000. Employees in other countries may be less affected by factors like cost–if they have a national health service that covers treatments, for example–but may face other obstacles to accessing care. The range of barriers to quality fertility and family-building care presents additional challenges to employers, especially those with economically and geographically diverse workforces.

For example, in the U.K., a phenomenon called the “postcode lottery” means that the level of fertility care you’re entitled to changes based on which region you live in. Or, in several European countries, for-profit surrogacy is banned, limiting options for LGBTQIA+ people or couples who are unable to conceive spontaneously. 

Next year, we expect to see companies and health plans taking a more comprehensive view of their care and benefits, trying to drive equitable care across as many different employee and member populations as possible. 

“At Elevance Health, we wanted to include underserved populations including urban, rural, and the LGBTQIA+ communities to ensure we were able to provide support no matter where you lived, no matter your family-building stage of life, or who your partner was,” said Houseman. “In 2024, we're thrilled to be rolling out inclusive care with our health plan.”

Bonus trend: Driving better care with virtual doula support

Doulas—trained professionals who provide guidance and support along the birthing journey—have been a source of birthing care for pregnant people for centuries. But only in the past few decades have doulas seen broader recognition in the healthcare industry and government. Doula care only increased in prominence in 2023, as more people recognized the important role that doulas can play in improving maternal health care for birthing parents in the United States and globally. 

While doulas commonly provide in-person care before, during, and after births, virtual doula support has been increasing in popularity along with the rise of digital health. While in-person doula care can be incredibly impactful in improving outcomes for birth parents, financial and logistical barriers exist that may prevent people from accessing doula care. Virtual doula care provided through a health plan or employer removes those barriers to care, making it more accessible to birthing parents regardless of income or location. 

Virtual doula care can drive tangible outcomes for birthing parents—a recent Maven study found that members who met with a doula virtually two times or more reduced the odds of C-section by nearly 20%. Black members who met with a doula at least twice on Maven had nearly 60% decreased odds of C-section, compared to Black members who did not meet with a doula. 

In 2024, we expect to see employers and health plans increasing access to virtual doula support for their employees and members, recognizing the importance of this type of care in improving health outcomes across populations. 

Looking ahead: Embracing change and innovation

As we look towards 2024, these trends highlight the evolving landscape of employee benefits in women's and family health. The challenges faced in 2023 have set the groundwork for a year of strategic adaptation and innovation. For HR leaders and benefits planners, adapting and evolving benefits to meet the diverse needs of their workforce is clear. By embracing these trends, organizations can position themselves at the forefront of delivering high-quality, equitable, and effective healthcare benefits.

Maven Clinic is the world’s largest virtual clinic for women and families, partnering with employers and health plans globally to drive better care for employees and members. To learn more about how we can help your organization design benefits that truly move the needle in 2024 and beyond, contact us today

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