As HR leaders look for ways to care for working parents and parents-to-be in 2023, many face shrinking budgets and economic uncertainty. 

Some may feel pressure to reduce spending on family benefits to cut costs, even though this strategy could ultimately backfire in the long run. The reason: Despite upfront costs, family benefits actually drive results—and ROI—in the long-term, making them an important investment in the future of your employees and the company. Here’s what employers need to know about the long-term costs of family benefits. 

Understanding the family benefits landscape

Because family benefits can span many different stages of life (family planning, pregnancy and postpartum, parenting, and even menopause), employers can choose from a wide array of solutions. As of 2021, Rock Health reports there are:

  • 16 digital health platforms that focus on fertility support
  • 27 that offer pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood support
  • Six that offer perimenopause and menopause care 

Point solutions vs. comprehensive family benefits

The sheer number of family benefits available today means HR leaders can configure their benefits programs in vastly different ways. Some choose to implement one or more point solutions—benefits that only focus on one specific part of the family journey, like fertility or menopause—to address specific, targeted needs. In this case, companies often offer multiple benefits to cover most of their employees’ needs on their paths to and through parenthood. 

While point solutions cover certain gaps in care left by the traditional healthcare system, they ultimately provide care at a specific period in your employees’ life until they don’t need that type of support anymore. For example, a fertility point solution would help employees as they pursue fertility treatment, but then wouldn’t support them through the resulting pregnancy and parenthood. This means employees have to switch to another platform for pregnancy support, starting anew with a different care team. 

In contrast, comprehensive solutions cover the complete family journey from preconception through pregnancy to parenthood and menopause. Those who implement a comprehensive solution often offer fewer platforms, because the solution often provides the majority of support parents and parents-to-be need. With a comprehensive solution, employees stay within the same solution and network as they start and raise their families, working with the same care team as they progress through the many stages of the family journey. 

Whether they choose multiple point solutions or a single comprehensive solution, employers say they recognize the importance of covering the full family journey. “We need to be mindful of how we’re supporting all people on all paths to parenthood,” says one HR manager at an equity management solution in Maven’s 2023 Family Benefits Trends Report. “It’s so hard for people to show up to work every day when they’re caring for their baby, their partner, or even members of their family. Supporting all those different configurations is really important.”

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

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

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

The long-term costs of comprehensive vs. point solutions

While both point solutions and comprehensive benefits come with short-term costs, such as the monthly fee paid to the vendor and any implementation costs, companies also need to consider the long-term costs of both types of solutions. Factors such as health outcomes and engagement rates can affect the true, long-term ROI of benefits and often can’t be estimated just by looking at the sticker price of a solution. 

The long-term costs of point solutions

Point solutions generally cost less than comprehensive solutions at the outset, because they’re more limited in scope and targeted in their interventions. However, costs can add up over time, especially if employers find themselves adding more point solutions to address the diverse needs of their employees. For example, an organization may offer a fertility solution, a maternity solution, and a pediatrics solution, all through different companies and using different technologies. In this scenario, if an employee successfully gets pregnant with support from their fertility benefit, they’d have to switch to another provider (and app) for support through their pregnancy. 

While this build-your-own approach to family benefits may appeal to some, companies that implement multiple disparate solutions often see lower ROI down the line, driven in part by poor clinical outcomes. One Commonwealth Fund study looked at the clinical effects of “fragmented care,” which they defined as employees receiving health services from a variety of different benefits platforms or providers, with no coordination across various types of benefits. The research found that a person with a chronic condition (such as hypertension or diabetes) is 13% more likely to go to the emergency department when their benefits are fragmented, driving up healthcare costs for the employee and their employers alike. 

Beyond clinical outcomes, low engagement with point solutions may also drive up long-term costs. A recent HealthAdvocate survey asked HR leaders their biggest challenges when using multiple vendors. Forty-four percent said their biggest challenge was a disjointed, confusing experience for employees, and 40% cited a lack of utilization as another primary pain point. If employees don’t engage with their benefits because they find them confusing to navigate, employers miss out on the improved outcomes and lower healthcare costs that accompany successful, engaging family health solutions. 

The long-term costs of comprehensive solutions

On the flip side, some comprehensive solutions may cost more than point solutions out of the gate due to the robustness of the solution. However, these higher initial costs often pay off in long-term cost reduction, because comprehensive solutions tend to see better health outcomes and increased engagement compared to point solutions. 

Leaders who responded to the HealthAdvocate survey highlighted the engagement advantages of comprehensive solutions. According to the survey, 60% say the biggest advantage of using a single health platform is that it presents each employee with a single point of contact that’s personalized, intuitive, and interactive. Another 40% say that comprehensive platforms improve employee engagement with benefits. Maven’s recent report also found that companies vastly prefer comprehensive solutions: 80% of HR leaders said that they only work with one to three family benefits vendors. Focusing on one or two comprehensive solutions that drive sustained engagement makes a substantial impact on long-term costs and ROI and eases the administrative burden on HR teams. 

Comprehensive solutions also drive meaningfully improved health outcomes, further reducing long-term costs for employers. Research shows that Maven’s comprehensive family benefits solution reduces C-section rates, ER visits, and NICU admissions, as well as the need to pursue medically unnecessary fertility treatments. C-sections alone cost 50% more than vaginal births, so companies would clearly benefit from the long-term cost reductions found in improving health outcomes. “Benefits are always considered cost-centers,” says one HR manager at a leading equity management solution. “ROI on benefits, especially family health benefits, doesn’t happen immediately—and if your company is in the position to provide more help, you will see the results down the line.”

Finding a solution that works best for your organization

Of course, your family benefits ecosystem can be as unique and diverse as your employees, but the majority of companies opt for streamlined, personalized benefits found through comprehensive solutions. If you’re concerned about upfront costs of comprehensive solutions, look for a vendor that bills based on utilization—that way, you know you only pay when employees actually use the solution. 

As you look to provide high-quality, cost-effective family support to your employees, Maven is here to help. Our comprehensive digital family health platform provides your employees with unlimited access to high-quality care for all their reproductive health needs, including fertility and family building, maternity and postpartum, parenting and pediatrics, and menopause and ongoing care. To learn more about how to make smart investments in your family benefits, request a demo today.

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