Strategies for managing health care costs are a critical topic for employers…and it won’t be going away anytime soon. There are discussions on the value of transparency in health care pricing, the role of consumer driven health plans, and how to help employees make educated health care decisions. Beyond these techniques, what else can be done to get and keep your employees healthy?
Claims Come First
There are fixed costs associated with health insurance plans, including administrative fees and stop loss insurance. But claims are easily the #1 driver of overall plan cost.
All other things equal, if we cut down on the number of claims we should theoretically cut down on overall costs, right? Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, we unfortunately don’t live in a utopia of perfect health and wellness, and claims are almost a guaranteed certainty.
Some health claims are unavoidable and very expensive in the long run. But a significant percentage of health care costs are driven by lifestyle choices or the overuse and abuse of the health care system. A healthy, informed workforce is one effective way to control health care costs since they will pursue services more intelligently. However, it is much easier said than done…but there is no time like the present to start!
Remember, It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Although employers would like to see claims drop significantly after a wellness plan is implemented, the return may not be immediately visible. However, as Nicole Fallowfield, Director of Health Risk Management at Gibson, says in her post: Wellness ROI: Are You Having The Right Conversation, wellness returns can reach far beyond the balance sheet.
Encouraging employees to be advocates of their own health can go a long way. As an employer, it is important to look at the bigger picture. Don’t just look at physical health, but consider overall wellbeing which includes an employee’s career health, financial wellness, social wellbeing, and connection to the community.
Manage, Mitigate, Monitor
Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, can be expensive to an employee and a health plan if not carefully monitored. Case management through experienced, certified health coaches is a great way to help these employees and their dependents. It is designed not only to help drive down the overall cost of the disease, but also help prevent further complications through maintaining appropriate medication levels and monitoring progress. Although the overall goal is optimal health for the patient, lower costs are also experienced in most cases.
Don’t Forget About Mental Health
Not all claims are due to physical illness and disease. An increasing portion of claims have their roots in mental illness. Stress, depression, anxiety, and many other conditions are common in the workplace today, most of the time without any glaring signals. Many of these conditions can be the root cause of other major physical impairments as well.
By having managers, supervisors, and human resource professionals be aware of the major signals of mental illness in their employees, companies can save money. It helps avoid extra health care costs, but also reduces absenteeism and presenteeism to increase productivity.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are also excellent resources in cases where employees do not feel comfortable talking directly with their supervisors or human resource professionals.
What are you doing to help keep your workforce healthy for the long haul? More importantly, with the rising cost of health care, can you afford to do nothing?