With today’s low unemployment rate and the resulting competition for talent, many employers are looking to their health benefits to retain employees and grow their teams. While 20% of employers increased their health care benefits from 2018 to 2019, there's a less costly way to maximize this benefit: by taking full advantage of the resources your health plan already offers. Here are 5 tips to help employers and their employees make full use of their current health plan.
1. Find out what member savings programs and value adds your health plan offers
Many health plans offer various programs to help members get discounts or reimbursements and put money back into their wallets. In addition to the popular fitness reimbursement, some plans offer reimbursement for nutrition programs or discounts on an array of health-related items, such as eyewear, acupuncture, bike helmets, child care and safety products, and fresh food delivery programs.
In addition to member discounts, most health plans offer personal support to members who are trying to be the healthiest they can be. For instance, some plans offer at no added cost: health coaching, nurse care for members being treated for a chronic and serious medical condition (like cancer, ALS, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis), smoking cessation programs, programs to avoid type 2 diabetes, and experienced coaches to support recovery from substance use.
2. Ask about marketing materials you can share to promote programs and benefits
Once you learn about all that’s available from your health plan, it's helpful to promote it to those enrolled. But, don’t worry—you don’t have to spend time writing or creating content yourself. Your benefits adviser and health plan have you covered.
Often, they will have turnkey content you can use to promote these valuable programs to your employees. For example, if you have an employee break room, you can post flyers on special member programs, e.g., discount programs, health and wellness programs, and special benefits like telemedicine.
Or, if your company has an intranet site or you occasionally send employee emails, ask for content content you can include there, whether in a Word document or PDF.
During open enrollment employers and employees alike often receive a great deal of information about their health plan. These materials can be even more useful once employees are enrolled and using their plan. Consider sharing some of the content included during open enrollment at different times throughout the year.
3. Make sure you’re connected with your health plan for regular updates
Today, many health plans use electronic communications to inform their customers about new programs, provider network additions, or perhaps a new benefit coming soon. If you haven’t received anything in a while, check your spam folder or check in with your IT department. You want to be sure that your health plan is whitelisted so you can receive their emails.
Similarly, health plan members can choose their preferred way to connect with their plan. Today, many health plans let members select if they prefer email or printed communications. Some plans use text, which is increasingly popular with all generations. Opt-ins enable health plans to share reminders for things like recommended immunizations, tests, or shots. Plus, some care management programs now include timely text check-ins. (Of course, a member can always opt out.)
4. Meet with your broker and health plan more than once a year
Meeting with your broker and health plan representative on a regular basis can be valuable way to learn about what's new with your health plan. You'll also be able to get the latest information on new plan designs before your effective enrollment date is right around the corner. That way, you'll have plenty of time to make an informed decision about renewing your existing plan or looking for a new one that offers greater value to your employees.
5. Help employees take advantage of available first dollar coverage benefits
Research suggests that employees delay care because of costs and 84% of Massachusetts private-sector employees are enrolled in health plan with a deductible. It is important for employees to know they have access to first dollar coverage. For example, most preventive care is covered at $0 cost sharing, but many employees aren't aware of what services fall under that category. Making your employees aware of these no-cost services will encourage them to seek out care and avoid preventable illnesses, injuries, and other conditions.
In addition, some insurers are now offering benefit plans that provide additional up front no cost coverage. For example, AllWays Health Partners now offers $0 cost sharing for the first 3 sick primary care provider visits and 3 behavioral health visits per benefit period for members age 18 and younger on most plans. Ask your benefits adviser or health plan account executive what’s available on your current benefit design to reduce barriers to care, and what additional options may be available.
HR teams are challenged to meet all the ongoing needs of their company in today’s fast paced and competitive environment, especially if they are part of a smaller organization and wear many hats. To that end, employers should depend on broker resources and insurers to help ensure they're making the most out of their health plan for the company and their employees.