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How to Design Benefits for a Diverse Workforce

Addressing diversity and inclusion within your workplace is more than just giving trainings and seminars and sending informational emails. Only with true action will employees know that you’re addressing their concerns, and it can take time to show them just how committed your business is to diversity.

Updating your employee benefits package to ensure that your offerings are designed for the diverse workforce you’re looking to create and foster is a crucial step in your business’ diversity efforts.

Here’s what you need to know about the different ways your office can be inclusive, and how to design your benefits package for a truly diverse company.

Types of Workplace Diversity to Consider

The term “diversity” doesn’t just refer to one thing, and it takes many forms in the workplace and elsewhere. Types of workplace diversity to consider when taking a look at your company data and updating policies are:

  • Generational
  • Gender/gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Religious beliefs
  • Disability
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Lifestyle
  • Political views
  • And others

As you can see, diversity is more than ensuring half of your employees are women, or that people of color are represented, though those are of course important considerations. It’s also about avoiding any form of discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, or disability.

There are many factors to think about when creating your diversity plan and updating business elements like benefits packages and employee handbook policies.

What to Include in Your Workplace Policies

First of all, remember that some applicable workplace laws are made on a state-by-state basis, not on a federal level. Some attorneys recommend going with the most comprehensive protection plans out there, even if you’re not required to do so in your state. This means you should update your policies to be in compliance with these regulations.

One example is the protection of discrimination against sexual orientation, which is not one of the included categories of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, sex discrimination is protected under the act, and workers have been known to file lawsuits that argue their sexual orientation cases under these protections instead.

As such, it’s a good idea to include in your policies that discriminatory actions such as firing an employee because of his or her mannerisms, or not treating a female employee fairly because she isn’t “womanlike,” are prohibited, as they are forms of sex discrimination.

Other ways to update policies accordingly is to develop or include gender-transitioning resources for employees, or to include the most current, acceptable, and inclusive terminology in employee materials.

Designing Benefits For a Diverse Workforce

The most important aspect of updating your benefits package is making sure that the benefits offered are fair and equitable to all employees.

Let’s take a look at the ways in which you can revamp your benefits offerings, in addition to your company policies. Think through these areas to get started with building a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Financial Benefits for Different Generations

Analyze the financial benefit offerings your company currently provides, such as retirement contributions, student loan debt assistance, and savings accounts. Are they more geared toward a younger audience, or an older audience?

For example, student loan debt is an affliction that impacts generations across the board, but research from Experian showed that Generation X, who are between 39 and 54, has the most student loan debt, with Baby Boomers in second (ages 55 to 73) and Millennials third (ages 23 to 38). Although it may seem like the younger generations would want benefits related to paying off their student loans, this is clearly an issue that all generation struggle with.

Another financial consideration here is retirement benefits. Baby Boomers are the closest to retiring, but research from the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) shows that 45% of people in this age group don’t have any retirement savings. As such, retirement savings assistance shouldn’t just be catered to the long-term. In addition, benefits like phased retirement plans and medical programs for retirees can help this generation better prepare for life after work.

Family Benefits

Another way to address diversity within benefits is what you offer for families. Important considerations in this category are:

  • Assistance with childcare
  • Parental leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Elder care services

Another benefit that can help support families through these matters is a dependent care flexible spending account, which helps employees pay for care services while they’re at work.

Benefits for Same-Sex Couples and Domestic Partners

Spousal healthcare coverage and other benefits have long been offered to heterosexual couples. It’s now important to offer these benefits for same-sex couples, in addition to couples who are in domestic partnerships. This also means that parental or family leave benefits should apply to these couples, even if they’re not legally married.

Flexibility Benefits

Because there are so many different perspectives, experiences, and abilities that exist within your workforce, a crucial benefit to provide is flexibility. Whether due to having children, a disability or illness, or caring for a sick family member, flexible work options allow employees to adapt their schedules and their location based on their personal needs. However, this means that the flexibility benefits must apply to all employees that require a different working arrangement, and cannot be implemented unfairly. Employees should feel comfortable and never feel guilty about using these benefits when they need them.

Holidays

A major part of your benefits package is time off for holidays. This has typically only included the major American holidays, both religious and political. However, think about the employees within your company that don’t celebrate the “mainstream” American holidays, who instead celebrate holidays from their own cultural background.

Implement benefits that allow employees to take off the holidays that are important to their culture or religion, and make it simple for them to request these days off. One effective way to implement these benefits is to offer “floating holidays” that employees can use however they wish.

Ask Your Employees

Even with the best intentions, you won’t completely satisfy your diverse workforce unless you allow them to speak up. An easy way for your company to gain invaluable information about what workers care about and what they want in their benefits packages is simply to ask them.

Send out surveys and ask for feedback. Ask them if they feel like their needs are being recognized and respected, whatever they may be. Companies often make a mistake when they assume that employees have certain wants, needs, and beliefs, so it’s important to avoid those dangerous assumptions when updating your benefits package. Instead, let employees tell you what’s most important to them.

Key Takeaways

As you’re strategizing to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, making tangible within your benefits package is one important way to keep your company on track. Remember:

  • There are many “types” of diversity within any workplace.
  • Create policies that offer the most protections possible against discrimination, regardless of whether your local laws require all of them.
  • Different generations have different financial priorities.
  • Offer family benefits like paid family leave and dependent care assistance.
  • Make sure health insurance and other applicable benefits are also offered for same-sex couples and domestic partners.
  • A range of flexibility options, like remote working or flexible schedules, can help employees with family, disability, or other concerns.
  • Not all employees celebrate the same holidays, religious or not. Floating holidays can ensure that they take time off when it’s applicable to their beliefs or culture.
  • Ask your employees directly what they want or what they feel they are missing from their current benefits package.

Remember that your employee benefits package will only be designed for a diverse workplace if the offerings are applicable to everyone on your team. Avoid making assumptions about what’s important to your employees, and you’ll quickly be on your way to an inclusive, satisfying benefits package.

For CFOs: How Healthcare Consumerism Can Reduce Costs and Improve Employee Experience

As insurers and employers attempt to adapt to increasing healthcare costs, they have moved towards a model that encourages healthcare consumerism. The Affordable Care Act marketplace and the rise of high-deductible health plans mean that employees have more choices and more control over their healthcare expenses than ever before. Since employees have a larger role in controlling healthcare costs, employers should make a priority of guiding them towards becoming engaged and strategic consumers to reduce their own costs. At the same time, the trend towards healthcare consumerism can make a significant impact on a company’s bottom-line.

So what are the impacts of healthcare consumerism on your business’s finances and your employees’ healthcare experience, and how can you help your employees become responsible consumers? In this post we’ll explore:

  • Why healthcare consumerism should be a priority for CFOs
  • The cost/benefit analysis of healthcare consumerism
  • How to help employees become responsible healthcare consumers through:
    • Plan design
    • Employee engagement in the healthcare process
    • Educating employees about healthcare options and best practices
    • Empowering employees by providing them with the proper tools and technology

Why Healthcare Consumerism Should Be A Priority for CFOs

Guiding your employees towards embracing their role as healthcare consumers and helping them become as informed and empowered consumers as possible should be a top priority for any CFO. As control over healthcare decisions and costs shift towards employees, so does power to reduce healthcare costs for employers. Which means that your employees become your greatest asset to reduce your healthcare expenses and manage your budget. Ignoring the healthcare consumerism trend can be extremely costly for employers as their employees will be ineffective consumers who incur unnecessary costs while achieving suboptimal health outcomes, thus decreasing their productivity and job satisfaction.

At the same time, consumerism itself is an enormous opportunity for employers. At its most basic level, it shifts costs from the employer onto employees as deductibles take the place of premiums and expenses are increasingly paid from employees’ health savings accounts. And as responsibility transfers from employers to employees, overall costs go down – especially within the context of increased consumer choice. Insurers and providers have to compete to win over employees’ business, driving down prices while increasing the quality of care where it matters most to consumers. The healthcare industry has to win over individual employees in their millions rather than a comparatively few number of employers, leading to more tailored solutions and disrupting the market to provide new cost-saving opportunities. Healthcare CFOs see consumerism as their number one business challenge and their challenge is your opportunity. They are striving to meet consumers’ needs and generating serious savings for employers along the way.

Looking at the issue from another perspective, healthcare consumerism saves companies significant time and effort because it allows employees to craft their own solutions and manage their own healthcare. Instead of having to assemble a health insurance plan that covers each employee’s needs, employers can work with their benefits brokers to create a range of options so that employees can opt into what works best for themselves and their families. This form of healthcare consumerism eliminates waste from unnecessary coverage and makes it easier for employers to provide their team members with the coverage that they need.

Cost/Benefit Considerations of Healthcare Consumerism

The potential savings from healthcare consumerism are significant, but that does not mean that there are no risks or tradeoffs. As for all major business strategies, you should consider the costs as well as the benefits of encouraging healthcare consumerism and guiding your employees to become better consumers before launching any initiatives.

Changing healthcare procedures is expensive, as is employee education and empowerment. Any major push to make employees more enlightened and engaged healthcare consumers might well be met with resistance by CFOs who are more concerned about their short-term bottom line.

There is also a risk that moves such as implementing HDHPs will be seen as attempts to reduce benefits and shift costs onto the employee. As such, it is incredibly important to approach these topics carefully and strategically, always focusing on the benefit to the employee. It is also another reason why tiered plan structures are a great idea because HDHPs are presented as an option rather than a mandate.

But it is much riskier to avoid adapting to healthcare consumerism. The market is moving towards a consumer-based model whether employers want it or not. So in addition to missing out on the benefits of healthcare consumerism we outlined earlier, failure to adapt can be extremely costly and result in worse healthcare outcomes for your employees. They will become healthcare consumers, but they will not be informed about their options and will incur unnecessary costs, avoid necessary care to cut expenses, and otherwise harm themselves and your bottom line.

How to Help Employees Become Responsible Healthcare Consumers:

Plan Design

The key to consumerism is choice, and your plan design plays an important role in this. To encourage your employees to become healthcare consumers and take control over their healthcare costs, you should work with your benefits broker to develop plan designs that give employees more control and more choice in their benefits selection.

The move towards consumer-driven health plans or CDHPs is at the heart of employee healthcare consumerism. These plans are generally high-deductible, but low-premium, plans (HDHPs) that are coupled with tax-sheltered or exempt health savings accounts. They reduce upfront costs for companies and employees alike and give employees maximum control over their healthcare expenses. Because employees mostly pay for the healthcare they use, rather than paying a high monthly premium, they will make more intentional healthcare choices. For example, they will be more likely to avoid high-cost options such as ERs and opt for cheaper alternatives like urgent cares centers or telehealth consultations.

But while HDHPs give employees control over their healthcare decisions and reduce costs for employers, they do not give employees choice when it comes to insurance decisions. Which is why many growing businesses choose to work with their brokers to develop a tiered insurance structure which includes more comprehensive plans with higher premiums. These plans also generally require employees to take on a higher percentage of the premiums. This way employees can opt to pay more upfront to avoid high-deductibles down the line, but employers still save. Providing insurance choices should be a part of any move towards healthcare consumerism.

Employee Engagement

For your business to reap the rewards of consumerism, your employees need to be aware of their role as consumers and engaged with their healthcare decisions. Otherwise, they will be unintentional and inefficient consumers.

The necessary first step to getting your employees to engage with their healthcare is to give them the ability to shape their healthcare costs and results. This entails offering consumer-driven health plans and often providing a tiered health insurance structure. If employees do not have choices, then there is no room for consumerism, let alone engaged and intelligent consumerism. But it is also not enough to simply provide them with choices: you have to give them the power to achieve positive results by offering them solutions that meet their needs. If you do not, and all of their healthcare options are unsatisfactory, then they won’t put much effort into choosing and will not become engaged consumers. And even if they try to, they will get substandard healthcare and savings results.

So a major focus of your employee engagement efforts should be to craft a healthcare approach that addresses employee concerns and needs. Your benefits broker can be an invaluable asset in developing healthcare options that increase employee engagement with the healthcare process. By conducting anonymous health risk assessments (HRAs) and employee surveys, they can identify demonstrated employee needs and ensure that your plans cover those needs. For instance, they might find that your employees need and value dental care but care much less about vision: these findings would allow you to reallocate resources towards dental and away from vision, creating healthcare options that attract employee engagement without increasing healthcare spending.

Once you have created a healthcare environment that is conducive to employee engagement, it’s time to work directly with your employees to get them to take control of their healthcare decisions. The first step is to educate your employees about their options and how to become better healthcare consumers. We will explore how to educate your employees and what benefits you can achieve from employee education in more depth in the next section, but it should be clear how important of a role employee education plays in healthcare consumerism. All of the healthcare options in the world will not increase consumerism if employees do not understand the options and are not armed with the information they need to choose between them.

In addition to education, you can also execute several strategies to increase employee engagement, including:

  • HSA matching to encourage planning and move employees towards CDHPs
  • Software solutions to make shopping for insurance and managing healthcare easy and accessible
  • Hold healthcare events to educate and engage employees
  • Offer wellness benefits to get employees thinking about their holistic health

Employee Education

It’s not enough to just get employees engaged in the healthcare marketplace: that might make them consumers but it will not make them intelligent, savvy consumers. That’s where education comes in. You should provide your employees with the resources they need to truly understand their options and best provide for their health while reducing healthcare expenses for themselves and you as an employer.

The good news is that healthcare providers and insurance carriers recognize the challenge that healthcare consumerism poses and are working to provide consumers with the information and tools they need to choose healthcare options. Which makes your job easier and saves you both time and resources.

Your greatest asset when it comes to employee education is your benefits broker. Unlike insurance carriers, brokers are truly your ally when it comes to reducing your expenses and providing your employees with the care they need. And some of the greatest contributions that brokers can make towards your business’s success come from employee education. They can provide the educational materials that inform employees about not only plan details that help them choose the best options for their health and wallets but also about healthcare best practices so that they can become the most effective consumers possible. They can also hold in-person events in your office, from forums and Q&As to one-on-one guidance sessions with your HR staff and your employees themselves. Your broker is an expert in the healthcare industry: let them use their expertise to educate your employees.

That being said, you still have an important role to play in employee education. Beyond engaging external resources to give your employees access to education, you should maintain consistent communication with your employees about their healthcare options, the tools available to them, and any changes to their benefits. Your employees will have peace of mind and be more able to make intelligent healthcare decisions and leverage the assets available to them. It is also vital that you communicate with them year-round rather than in the lead-up to open enrollment to reduce the pain and expense of open enrollment for everyone involved.

Empowering Employees

Once you have given your employees the insurance options that maximize their role as consumers and the engagement and education that makes them informed consumers, it’s time to provide them with the tools they need to become empowered consumers. There are more options than ever to manage healthcare and reduce expenses, and your broker will likely have connections with trusted providers who can give you these tools.

There are two major categories of cost-reducing tools that you should use to empower your employees. The first is telehealth, which over a quarter of employers currently provide and 96% of employers plan on implementing. The advantages of telehealth are significant: not only do digital consultations cost less than a third as much as traditional doctor’s office visits on average and divert employees away from extremely expensive trips to the ER for on-demand advice, telehealth also reduces absenteeism and increases productivity by allowing employees to access the care they need more quickly, easily, and without missing work to do it.

The second tool you can use to reduce healthcare costs for your employees and your company is a pharmacy savings card. Programs like CleverRX allow employees to purchase prescription drugs at a negotiated rate that is frequently lower than their copays would be. In fact, 80% of consumers could save money using one of these cards. Pharmacy savings cards are just another example of how providing your employees with as many choices as possible helps them become empowered, cost-cutting consumers.

Software platforms should also play a part in your empowerment initiatives. Healthcare management apps like HealthiestYou allow employees to access plan information and health guidance, shop for providers, review pharmacy options and rates, and even receive telehealth consultations all from one centralized platform. At the same time, open-enrollment platforms can make it easier for employees to make smart insurance decisions and cut through the red tape that makes employee engagement a challenge. Online employee benefits portals help employees manage their healthcare, reap the rewards of the benefits you spend so much to provide them (increasing employee engagement and retention), and access educational materials.

Key Takeaways

Healthcare consumerism is a powerful force that can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom-line and on employees’ healthcare experiences and outcomes. As such, encouraging consumerism and helping employees become better consumers should be a serious priority for CFOs at growing businesses. Just remember that:

  • Your plan design should allow employees to manage their healthcare costs through HDHPs + HSAs, and also provide them with a range of insurance options
  • Engaging employees in their healthcare decisions is the first step in guiding them to become responsible consumers
  • Employee education allows employees to make strategic decisions regarding their insurance plans, healthcare, and health behaviors
  • Tools and technology such as telehealth, pharmacy savings cards, and enrollment software empowers employees to reduce costs while receiving the care they need

While healthcare consumerism is an enormously powerful tool to reduce costs, it is best used as part of a broader strategy to reduce healthcare expenses. We will be holding a webinar on how to reduce healthcare costs at your growing business on September 19th at 11:00am CST. Join industry experts including Jack Diamond of Teledoc, Brett Cunningham of CleverRX, and our very own Alex Koglin to learn how to manage your healthcare expenses while providing your employees with the best healthcare possible. Register today!

How to Make Your Workplace More LGBTQ Friendly (And Why You Should)

How to Make Your Workplace More LGBTQ Friendly (And Why You Should)

The LGBTQ community has yet to have full federal protection in the workplace against discrimination. In May 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which bans discrimination because of an employee’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, but the bill is resting with the Senate, who may decide not to pass it.

Marriage equality is now a federal law, impacting all 50 states, yet there are still 31 states without discrimination protection for this community, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s report, A Workplace Divided.

In your workplace, diversity and inclusion should be two main priorities, and adequately addressing these matters means that you are both recognizing and encouraging the LGBTQ community to feel open, safe, and normal living and working as they are.

Here are key reasons why you should take action to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce, and the ways to do it.

Impacts on the LGBTQ community when they feel excluded

It’s easy to see why LGBTQ workers would continue to feel excluded in the workplace. They often don’t feel understood or acknowledged, and they may feel like they’re not able to participate in normal discussions or activities because of the fear of being judged or stereotyped.

Many people in this community feel overly sexualized. Essentially what this means is that when it becomes known that they have a certain “nontraditional” sexual orientation, they become their sexual identity, instead of coworkers seeing them for themselves and their work capabilities.

This feeling of exclusion leads to negative feelings and even lack of productivity at work: 25% of LGBTQ workers report feeling distracted from work, as the Human Rights Campaign report shows, 17% report feeling exhausted from having to hide their sexual orientation, and 31% report feeling unhappy or depressed at work.

Why encourage openness and acceptance?

According to the aforementioned report, 46% of workers who identify as LGBTQ remain closeted, and half of those surveyed said that there aren’t any employees at their organization who are open about it.

While it’s of course not always a great idea to have everyone discuss or admit to their sexual experiences in the workplace, the reasons behind staying closeted show how fearful a non-inclusive workplace can be for this community. The top reasons that they stay closeted are:
• The potential to be stereotyped by coworkers
• To avoid making others feel uncomfortable
• To avoid losing connections or relationships
• To avoid coworkers thinking they are attracted to them because they are LGBTQ

Make sure in your efforts to encourage openness that you aren’t forcing LGBTQ workers to disclose things they aren’t comfortable with; the key is to educate staff and have serious discussions about these topics. If they aren’t talked about, LGBTQ workers will feel like they have to remain closeted. And while some topics are “supposed to be” taboo at work, like sex or politics, the truth is, many employees talk about their lives outside of work on a daily basis with their coworkers.

Why educate employees?

It’s also important to keep all employees educated about policies and aware of how best to behave in the workplace. You aren’t telling them what to believe, just how to represent the company and treat others while they’re on your watch.

Many employees may just not be aware of these issues, and so they may not even recognize that their behavior is out of line or could be offensive to their coworkers. It’s your responsibility to thus educate them so that they are more thoughtful and deliberate about how they treat certain topics and talk to each other at work.

The Workplace Divided report revealed an additional alarming statistic in this area: 1 in 5 LGBTQ workers have experienced being told by a coworker that they should dress either more feminine of masculine; only 1 in 24 non-LGBTQ workers reported this having ever happened to them. Additionally, 36% of non-LGBTQ employees said that they would feel uncomfortable if an LGBTQ coworker started talking about their dating life.

So, there is clearly still a bias in place that needs to be addressed in each and every workplace. Part of ensuring you are fostering an inclusive and diverse office is educating everyone to get them thinking about their behavior and the way they treat others.

Benefits of inclusivity for your company

Your LGBTQ workers will not be the only ones who benefit from addressing these issues. Think about the benefits your organization will also experience:
• Less discrimination lawsuits and therefore less in legal fees
• Less turnover, as 1 in 4 LGBTQ workers said they stayed in a job because the workplace was accepting of LGBTQ people
• Health insurance costs may go down because the health of all employees is given more consideration
• Partnerships could increase as your company becomes known as a socially responsible organization

Another big reason to address discrimination and encourage inclusivity and diversity in the workplace is because a more diverse office is a more profitable office. A study from Boston Consulting Group last year found that companies with above-average diversity on management teams earn 19% more in revenue than companies with below-average diversity on these teams.

Why? Because diverse teams create diverse perspectives; gone are the days of the bureaucracy, where one team of older white men makes all the decisions for an organization. For any company to grow and succeed, diversity, and therefore greater inclusivity, are assets.

Additional strategies to foster inclusivity and diversity in the workplace

So where should you begin? Try implementing these strategies to foster inclusivity and better educate the workforce about discrimination and how to create accepting, inclusive workplaces:
• Talk about how detrimental stereotyping can be, in general and also related to someone’s gender or sexuality.
• Share statistics similar to those presented in this article to show employees how important these issues really are for a functioning workplace.
• Engage with learning materials that present workplace scenarios so that employees can learn how to approach certain topics and actually visualize how to behave to encourage inclusivity.
• Always stress the importance of diversity and make sure the executive team shares with the company about efforts they are taking in these areas (for example, those in charge should admit when they become aware of areas they could improve, such as diversifying the board of directors).
• Provide resources for LGBTQ workers if they experience harassment or discrimination from coworkers, or if they just need someone to talk to, like an HR representative or counselor.
• Implement actual company policies that protect workers against discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Make sure these policies are distributed to all employees and are available for reference.

Key takeaways

• Because discrimination rights based on sexuality continue to stall on a federal level, take action in your individual workplace
• If the LGBTQ community feels excluded in the workplace, they’re more likely to leave and are more likely to feel unhappy or depressed at work
• Encourage openness and acceptance at work so that LGBTQ workers don’t feel like they have to remain closeted to be liked
• Educate employees, especially non-LGBTQ workers, so that they are aware of these issues and are better aware of how to behave
• Recognize the financial and productivity benefits that an inclusive and diverse workplace provides
• Create support systems and company policies that address these issues

When you’re able to educate and encourage, and foster diversity and inclusivity—teaching your employees what they mean, why they’re important, and how they help the entire workplace—your company culture will shift toward being more socially aware and responsible.

Home Telehealth Can Reduce Your Business’s Healthcare Costs: Here’s How

Home Telehealth Can Reduce Your Business’s Healthcare Costs: Here’s How

We live in a digital age where every aspect of people’s personal and professional lives is increasingly conducted in the cloud. Companies and employees alike are adapting to and taking advantage of new possibilities for remote working, continuous communication, and other technology to fuel creativity and collaboration. But this same technology can make just as big an impact on your business’s healthcare costs. Businesses are used to the idea that meetings do not have to be conducted in person, and more and more are discovering that many medical visits do not, either.

The percentage of employers who offer a telemedicine program has doubled since 2015, according to a Mercer survey. That’s because it’s an effective strategy to reduce healthcare costs by encouraging employees to get treatment that heads off future healthcare expenses while preventing unnecessary doctor’s office, urgent care, and ER visits. In fact, the average savings per single employee annually is $300 according to the AMA, and that number goes up to $1000 per year for a family of four. Given that benefits like healthcare makeup 25-40% of most companies’ payroll expenses, tackling healthcare expenses through telehealth seems like a worthwhile investment for any growing business. Especially since it is easy to implement and requires minimal upfront investment.

Best of all, implementing telehealth is a cost-cutting measure that actually increases the standard of care for your employees. That means that they are happier and healthier, making them more productive and engaged team members. So telehealth can boost your revenue and help you maintain a stable workforce while it reduces your healthcare costs.

So how exactly does telehealth generate savings which can help give SMBs the financial stability they need to grow? In this article we will explore how telehealth generates:
• Short-term savings from reduced cost of care
• Increased revenue due to employee performance
• Long-term savings

Reduced Cost of Care Generates Short-Term Savings

The clearest cost-cutting benefit to implementing telehealth is that employees will opt to get their medical advice digitally instead of by going to a doctor’s office, urgent care, or ER. These savings can add up quickly as telehealth consultations cost an average of $40, compared to $125 for equivalent office visits. So not only will your healthcare costs go down, but your employees’ out-of-pocket costs will too.

The biggest savings come from averted emergency room visits. Telehealth is highly effective in staving off these extremely expensive visits when employees have unexpected healthcare needs. A study of a telemedicine platform in Pennsylvania found that the majority of employee health concerns were resolved in a single virtual-consultation and that the telemedicine option generated short-term savings by diverting patients from higher-cost options. Each avoided emergency room visit saved $300-$1500, which can make a significant impact on growing businesses worried about maintaining their bottom line.

Telehealth provides employees with a convenient and affordable alternative to a wide range of traditional healthcare services that can incur significant healthcare expenses. That means that implementing a telehealth platform reduces short-term costs for employers and employees alike. It also means that employers will be able to negotiate lower premiums because their employees present a lower risk for insurers.

Increased Revenue from Employee Performance

The savings from diverting employees away from high-cost consultation and treatment options might be exceeded by the revenue generated from fostering a healthier and more engaged workforce. Making healthcare more accessible and affordable for your employees means that they will take advantage of it more often and receive the treatment that they need, making them more high-performing team members. Also, because telehealth can be accessed immediately and from anywhere, employees will not have to choose between going to work and getting medical advice. As a result, employers who implement a home telehealth platform can expect their employees to take fewer sick days due to doctor’s appointments.

Reducing absenteeism generates significant cost savings from increased worker productivity by itself, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Healthier employees are more productive, straight and simple and telemedicine can help keep them that way. In the current employment and healthcare climate, employees frequently avoid treatment until an illness gets “bad enough”; which means that they come into work sick for extended periods. That’s bad news for companies because sick team members are less productive while collecting the same salary and benefits, and worse still can infect other employees. Getting treatment as soon as issues arise ensures that employees get back to peak performance as quickly as possible.

Home telehealth also streamlines the healthcare experience for employees and saves them significant time and money. That doesn’t just make them healthy and able to work but also makes them happier and more satisfied with their work. It is an additional benefit which makes your employees feel well taken care of, increasing their loyalty and their engagement with your company. Growing businesses can struggle to compete with larger companies to attract, engage, and retain the talent they need to succeed partially because their smaller budget limits the range of benefits that they can offer. Telehealth is a great way for these businesses to stand out for their meaningful benefits program while simultaneously reducing costs.

Long Term Savings

Home telehealth is not just about getting treatment when illness strikes: it also makes it easier to access preventive care and ongoing treatment for chronic conditions. As such, it can prevent significant future healthcare expenses from treating preventable or neglected conditions.

Employees are increasingly foregoing primary care visits and other preventive services. The total number of trips to primary care doctors dropped by 18% between 2012 and 2016. This issue is particularly great among Millennials, a third of whom do not even have a primary care doctor. That can become a big problem for employers as Millennials continue to make up a larger percentage of the workforce. Primary care can help identify potential issues before they become costly and damaging to the patient and provide holistic guidance that increases overall health. Telehealth can help fill in this gap, especially for tech-savvy Millennials.

Telehealth can also provide easy and affordable access to wellness benefits by helping to identify risk factors and guide employees through prevention. This matters because 70% of employer healthcare expenses come from preventable lifestyle-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung cancer. Telemedicine consultations can help employees figure out what challenges they need to address and can help guide employees through the process of tackling those challenges. For example, telehealth platforms can give employees access to advice and consultation to support weight loss and smoking or alcohol cessation.

Using telehealth to manage treatment for chronic conditions can also lead to significant ongoing savings. People with chronic conditions account for three-quarters of doctor’s visits and nine out of ten prescriptions so managing their health effectively and cost-efficiently should be a priority for any employer. Telemedicine can make this care easier to get and cheaper for employee and company alike, reducing those doctor’s office visits and hospital stays. Employees can access advice about medication management quickly and easily while incurring fewer expenses for themselves and their employer. These savings can be especially great when combined with mail-order prescription fulfillment. And the long-term savings add up when you consider the significant healthcare expenses that can result from untreated, undertreated, or mistreated chronic conditions, all of which can result from under-utilization of healthcare options due to cost and inconvenience.

The last and frequently overlooked area in which telehealth can save your business money is in mental healthcare. Insurers, providers, and employers are beginning to recognize the importance of mental health in addition to physical health, but the infrastructure is still catching up to employee needs. Even when options are available, employees often avoid accessing mental healthcare because it is stigmatized and because regular psychologist or psychiatrist visits are too much of a hassle. Luckily, telemedicine has proven to be an effective method to treat mental health and is cost-effective for employers compared to in-person visits. Not only that, but it is more convenient and private than traditional treatment, making it more appealing to employees. That means that you can reduce employee burnout, underperformance, and turnover due to untreated mental conditions such as depression or anxiety. You will pay less for care and your employees will be happier and more engaged in their work, making them more valuable team members.

Key Takeaways

Home telehealth is a constantly expanding field and there is no way for us to cover every aspect of how it can improve your employees’ healthcare and your bottom-line in one article. But hopefully, we have given you a sense of how telehealth can play an essential role in your efforts to control healthcare costs. Just remember:

• Telehealth appointments are significantly cheaper than traditional alternatives and prevent costly ER and office visits
• The affordability and convenience of telehealth means that it can make your employees healthier and more productive, helping your business grow sustainably
• Telehealth can reduce ongoing and future healthcare expenses by supporting preventive care, managing treatment for chronic conditions, and providing mental healthcare

If you want to cut your business’s healthcare expenses while still attracting and retaining the talent you need to grow your business, telehealth should be just one part of your strategy. We will be hosting a comprehensive webinar to address how CFOs and business leaders can curb healthcare costs on September 19th at 11 AM CST. Learn from industry experts in benefits administration, telehealth, and more so that you can effectively manage your healthcare expenses. Register today!

High-Deductible Plans Are Better Than Ever, Thanks to New IRS Rules

Amid legislation that pushes consumerism in healthcare while putting greater burdens on healthcare consumers, employers and employees alike have turned to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) to minimize their healthcare costs. As premiums continue to rise, these plans offer an opportunity to keep upfront costs low for companies and their employees. At the same time, the IRS permits the creation of tax-exempt health savings accounts or HSAs for people with HDHPs to cover the costs of the higher deductibles when expenses do come up.

This system works great for everyone involved – so long as people stay healthy. Which makes preventive care an integral part of any successful HDHP based healthcare strategy. By allowing patients to head off health issues before they become significant expenses, preventive care keeps everyone’s expenses down and maximizes health outcomes for the insured. Recognizing this, the IRS has allowed insurance plans to cover preventive care such as check-ups, screenings, immunizations, and tobacco cessation or weight-loss programs with a low or non-existent deductible while keeping their HDHP status.

However, the IRS has not generally extended the same low-deductible permissions to treatments for existing illnesses or conditions. Since 2004, certain on-the-spot treatments for conditions discovered during screenings (such as removing polyps discovered during colonoscopies) and medications to prevent recurrence of heart attacks or to reduce cholesterol to prevent heart disease have fallen under the umbrella of preventive care, but that’s about it.

Which means that people with chronic conditions have generally been left out. They have had to choose between paying out high-deductibles for treatments that prevent their conditions from worsening, or giving up their HSAs and adopting high-premium plans. Until now, that is.

The IRS’ New Rule

On July 17, 2019, the IRS issued Notice 2019-45, which significantly broadened the definition of preventive care to extend it to many treatments for chronic conditions. To qualify as preventive care, the treatments must be likely to prevent the worsening of a chronic condition or the development of a secondary condition which would incur greater healthcare costs. It must also meet several other criteria, which we have outlined in this handy chart for easy reference:

The Impact for Companies and Their Employees

So what does this policy change mean for employers and employees? Simply put, it provides enormous opportunities for both to take greater control over their costs, minimizing their expenses while maximizing employee health and wellness. It makes the already appealing HDHP and HSA healthcare option a win for employees who want to increase their welfare and for employers who are looking to reduce their expenses.

The expanded definition of preventive care provides a new opportunity for employers to educate their employees so that they can become more intelligent consumers amid government policies which force consumerism in the healthcare market. Employees can use HDHPs to control their costs without fear of compromising their health, especially by neglecting chronic conditions to avoid paying high deductibles. Instead, they can get the treatment that they need at low costs while keeping their tax-exempt health savings.

Key Takeaways

We’ve thrown a lot of information your way in this article, so here are some key takeaways that you should remember:

• IRS Notice 2019-45 opened up serious opportunities for employers to cut their costs and for employees to reduce their expenses and maximize their healthcare outcomes
• Chronic conditions will no longer force consumers to take on significant healthcare costs to receive the treatment they need to maintain their health and avoid future expenses
• That means that high-deductible health plans, which already provided the best solution for consumers in the current healthcare market, are now better than ever

To make the most of the rule change as an employer, you should partner with a proactive benefits broker who will help you craft a healthcare strategy which maximizes the impact for your employees while minimizing your costs. Benefits are an important tool to attract, retain, and engage the talent that you need to grow your business. The well-being of your company and its employees ultimately depends on the effectiveness of your benefits strategy. So it is more important than ever to work with the right benefits broker.

Interested in making the switch to a broker who is invested in your growth and your employees’ well-being? Start the conversation today.