A recent assessment by the National Business group on health suggests that two thirds of large employers believe HDHPs are one of the most effective ways to reduce benefits costs. Another by the National Bureau of Economic Research corroborates this assertion, specifically identifying employer spending decreases of 10-15% in the areas of preventive, emergency, outpatient, and pharmaceutical care. This all makes sense as HDHPs leverage higher deductibles – transferring more expenses from employer to employee. Another recent study shows that by 2020, HDHP implementation will have tripled in just 7 years, becoming available through 40% of employers.
But this isn’t the whole story. Higher deductibles logically and experientially discourage plan usage and overall healthcare engagement, dramatically increasing the likelihood of increasingly severe health concerns down the road. A failure to capitalize on inexpensive preventive care frequently causes health issues to exacerbate, inflating long-term costs for employer and employee alike. A survey by Families USA determined approximately 30% of those covered by employer-provided benefits with deductibles upward of $1,500 per individual avoided medical care due to unaffordable out-of-pocket expenses. Other studies, including one by the Commonwealth Fund, reached the same conclusion.
Beyond an aversion to obtaining care, HDHP enrollees are often less engaged in their healthcare plans, leading to a failure to capitalize on the limited but valuable services to which they are entitled at little or no personal expense. Reduced price-consciousness and a lack of plan knowledge both exacerbate the other shortcomings of the High Deductible Health Plan. To learn more about the challenges associated with HDHPs and the variety of alternatives available, contact Chelten Consulting.
Many employers struggle with low engagement levels when it comes to healthcare. Part of the problem is a lack of employee enthusiasm, but the majority of the issue lies in confusing benefits communications. Many employees do not know what their healthcare costs will be in the coming year and do not learn of the final costs until after selecting their health services. Meanwhile, over half of employees are not certain they are paying the correct amount for their health services. Below are some tips for employers to improve employee engagement with their healthcare.
Employees Are Not One Size Fits All
Treating employees as one conglomerate when it comes to benefits communications will backfire for employers. Some employees prefer webinars and video tutorials while others prefer one-on-one conversations with a healthcare professional. Offering a variety of benefit communications options and channels will help employers reach their entire audience rather than a select few.
Do Not Presume Employees Understand Their Benefits
Consumer-directed healthcare benefits are nothing new, but this does not mean their intended audience understands them. For example, less than one-third of individuals with a health savings account (HSA) can prove basic proficiency on how their HSA works. Many employers make the mistake of believing their employees have a high level of understanding for their benefits. Studies show employers consistently rate themselves 15 percent higher than employees do for providing clarity, depth, and communications options for healthcare services.
Use Incentives to Drive Engagement
While many employers may think having adequate healthcare coverage should be incentive enough to encourage employee engagement, they are wrong. Employees find their healthcare benefits to be baffling and boring. Another reason employers should consider incentivizing healthcare engagement is to reduce preventable illnesses and injuries. The vast majority of healthcare claims stem from avoidable or manageable causes.
Making use of wellness programs are a major way to incentivize healthcare engagement. Financial incentives also appeal to employees. These do not need to be expensive either. For example, paying for an annual pass for a wellness activity (such as a gym membership) could cost employers as little as $100 per year. If the employee makes use of their membership, they can bolster their health and fitness. Improved health and lifestyle means fewer sick days and less injury-prone employees, so employers can more than make up that $100.
Improving employee engagement with their healthcare benefits goes beyond compliance and healthcare coverage. Ensuring employees understand their benefits can enhance job satisfaction and morale as well. If your business struggles with employee healthcare engagement, contact Chelten Consulting to learn more great methods of effective benefits communications.