Becoming Engaged Healthcare Consumers

healthcare, health care

Premiums are going up and your employees aren’t happy. If you’ve taken the steps in part one, you started the discussion on why your employee’s health care costs are going up. You’ll know who is now thinking about health care in a whole new way and who wants to stick to the old way of doing things.

It’s your duty to your employees and business to encourage Engaged Healthcare Consumer (EHC) behaviors. We have several tips and ideas to implement in the book, Health-Wealth. It’s designed to help you understand why prices keep jumping up and how to save costs on your health care spending. The Health-Wealth not for profit education division offers an interactive exercise for your corporate benefits teams, to assist them in starting the cultural shift of converting employees to EHCs.

Additionally, you can assist your employees to be more responsible by having them read Health Wealth for You, 11 Steps to Save Big & Live Healthy. This follow-up is for your employees to start saving money on their own health care costs.

Now, let’s take a look at a few of the suggestions.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

More insurance plans and companies are implementing HSAs. These are accounts that employees and employers contribute funds to, usually tax-free. These plans can be used for any health or medical expense. For example, many employees use it to pay deductibles and prescription costs. Other people may use it for massage therapy, nutritional services, or other wellness product.

One of the more significant benefits of HSAs is you as the employer can contribute to this account. Depending on your business model, your contributions can also be tax deductible.

Explain to your employees why you’re contributing to HSA rather than getting them a lower deductible. The reduced employee contribution and the HSA can offset the cost of the higher deductible for many employees.

For the younger generation, Generation Y and Millennials, HSAs can help pay for services not covered by the insurance companies. For healthier individuals, they may not fulfill the deductible no matter how high or low. An HSA makes more sense.

Higher Pay Vs. No Health Care

Depending on the size of your company, you may fall into a bracket that you may not need to offer health insurance at all. In some cases, these companies will opt to pay their employees significantly higher wages and/or contribute to large HSA.

For some companies, the cost of government fines for not providing insurance is lower than the cost of health insurance. Be sure to know your legal responsibility before choose not to offer coverage.

Gym Memberships, Weight Loss Programs, & Other Incentives

Before purchasing any new health insurance, talk to the wellness advisors to see if there are any discounts for healthy employees, wellness plans, and other incentives. Many insurance plans are helping to lower deductibles and premiums when employees take advantage of weight loss programs, gym memberships, and insurance sponsored wellness plans.

For example, most insurance companies have nutritionists on staff to help with weight loss, dieticians to help with diabetes and blood pressure control, pain management specialist to help people avoid painkillers and other opioids, and health coaches the help people feel better and be more active.

You should also help your employees to quit smoking, avoid recreational drugs, and reduce their alcohol intake. Because premiums are built upon risk factors, lowering the risk factors in your employees can help lower your overall insurance cost. Many people who smoke and abuse mind-altering substances, like alcohol, genuinely desire to get rid of their addiction but don’t have the support in place. By offering that support, you help your employees be healthier, more productive, and lower your insurance premiums.

Some insurances offer discounts when you hold a health fair for your employees. Usually, local businesses and health offices will volunteer to set up a table and give out free information during these fairs (many come for the free lunch). It’s a chance to talk to potential new patients for these health businesses.

Telehealth & Remote Monitoring Services

Nearly all insurance companies now offer some form of telehealth or the ability for the insured party to contact a doctor via phone or video. Many doctors can diagnose, prescribe, and treat a patient without ever having to see them in person. These services usually are significantly reduced in price, often being less than a standard deductible.

These services are an especially important step in the treatment of chronic and lifestyle diseases. For example, heart disease requires frequent check-ups. Patients who can monitor their blood pressure and diet at home can use electronic links to automatically submit the information to the doctor. Medications can be adjusted as needed, and a wellness coach can be consulted virtually to help with lifestyle techniques. Patients who visit a doctor every three months can reduce this frequency to once a year.

Overall, patients have better and faster access to doctors and medicine via telehealth.

There are several other examples of how an employer will save in the book Health-Wealth, such as how to save money on prescriptions, choosing center-of-value hospitals, and much more.

Navigating Negative Feedback

We all know you’re not going to make everybody happy. No matter which plan you choose, how low the deductible, or how small the premiums, someone will find faults with your choice.

This resistance is especially true when it comes to having to talk to your employees about raising their insurance costs.

There are three basic steps you can take to reduce the impact of negative comments and help all of your employees understand your position and the inevitable rate increase.

  1. Listen to constructive negative feedback

There’s a significant difference between listening to constructive feedback and allowing people to rant and rave. Tell your employees you welcome calm input and are willing to have a conversation about what’s happening with the insurance. However, do not allow your employees to fall into the trap of venting their frustrations with no purpose.

  1. Listen to constructive negative feedback

Yes, we know we listed this twice. It’s that important. Once you know you are getting valuable feedback, listen to it thoroughly without interruption. Ask questions if you don’t understand something. Once your employee has finished their feedback, summarize and repeat back to them what they said. Then, ask them if that is their concern and if you missed any significant detail.

Once you have your employee’s feedback, it is up to you to decide what to do with it. If it is something that will help you lower your costs and benefit your employees, you should work with your employees to implement the process. If it is something you cannot do or will end up costing too much of your profits, explain to your employee why it is not a good idea.

  1. Share the feedback you receive and your response

If one of your employees has a complaint, chances are many more do and are unwilling to come forward. By not sharing, resentment can fester.

When you share the negative feedback and your response to it, you help address many problems that could potentially arise in the future and resolve them before they ever become a problem. It also shows your employees that you are willing to listen and consider their concerns.

Will this solve all the problems? Probably not. Insurance premiums will likely continue to rise over the next few years.

Many changes came to the healthcare system in a very short amount of time. The rising cost of healthcare and insurance left many people choosing to opt out of the system entirely, placing a more substantial financial burden on to doctors and hospitals, which eventually get passed through to the insurance companies and back to the people.

While we can’t change how the insurance companies work, nor beat the health care system, communication with your employees can help them understand why the costs are going up so much.

[“source=forbes”]