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Hospitals Accelerate Hiring, Bolster Benefits a Year After Pandemic Lockdowns

August 30, 2021
By Corey Noles

Aon plc reports that 40 percent of hospitals surveyed have accelerated hiring to meet surging demand in medical services following COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, according to the firm’s 16th annual Benefits Survey of Hospitals released today.

Another 36 percent plan for normal hiring and 24 percent are being cautious, delaying, or issuing a hiring freeze, according to Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement, and health solutions.

The findings provide a stark contrast to cost-cutting measures hospitals put in place in 2020 during the pandemic lockdowns when 54 percent instituted furloughs, 45 percent laid-off workers, 15 percent suspended 401(k), or 403(b) retirement plan contributions and 10 percent announced voluntary separation programs.

“The top priority in 2020 was to mitigate rising costs for the employer—understandably, given the financial shock that health systems were reeling from,” said Sheena Singh, senior vice president of Aon’s national healthcare industry practice. “Now, the pandemic has exacerbated a labor shortage that could impact patient care delivery, delay attainment of organizational objectives and accelerate burnout among clinical staff.”

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Top concerns expressed by health system employers include:

  • employee burnout/workforce resiliency (77 percent);
  • employee work/life balance (76 percent);
  • financial stress for employees (75 percent); and
  • benefits to support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (73 percent)

The report shows average health benefit expenses per hospital employee per year are projected to grow 2.7 percent, from $14,466 in 2020 to $15,133 in 2021, as hospitals ramp-up to accommodate deferred medical services from 2020.

Seventy-seven percent of hospitals aim to pay 76 percent or more of their employees’ health care costs and 23 percent offer a no-cost health plan option to some segment of their employee population. Eighty-five percent of health systems surveyed provide a discount to employees via plan design to access their own facilities and providers.

Hospitals also seek to reward employees with the following benefits:

  • 94 percent offering tuition reimbursement programs;
  • 69 percent offering flexible work options (an additional 30 percent are considering adding this option);
  • 66 percent offering cash-out vacation policies;
  • 45 percent offering adoption benefits;
  • 36 percent offering gender-affirming surgery;
  • 33 percent offering on-site daycare;
  • 32 percent offering student loan repayment plans (an additional 40 percent are considering this option);
  • 31 percent offering back-up childcare; and
  • 23 percent offering back-up elder care.

“Attracting and retaining talent remains a top priority and health systems have prioritized benefits as a mechanism to reward their workforce,” Singh added. “This is a trend that will continue with a shortage of qualified health professionals and rising demand for health care services, as these organizations seek to build a resilient workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Aon’s 16th annual Benefits Survey of Hospitals surveyed hospital employers between April and June 2021. The survey compiles results of participating benefit plans for more than 2.4 million health system employees representing more than 1,150 hospitals across the U.S.

For more information and to access the report, visit https://insights-north-america.aon.com/healthcare/aon-highlights-2021-benefits-survey-of-hospitals-report.

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