Benefit Investments Help Bottom Line

Higher health care costs may tempt companies to cut benefits or increase employee cost-sharing.  But rich benefit programs can help attract and retain a talented workforce.  Top benefit managers have successfully accomplished the seemingly impossible – keeping attractive benefit packages in place and saving on health care costs without shifting it to employees.  What are some of the ways they achieved their success?

One manager for a major corporation was able to identify the key factors which kept driving health care costs up.  Then she attacked them with strategic chronic care management and health improvement programs.  As a result, the company’s health care costs didn’t double in five years.  In fact, they saved enough money to cover benefit costs for their 40,000 employees and dependents.

Part of her strategy included educating employees, explaining “why it was necessary for us to work collectively, as a company and as employees, to contain health care costs. . .  She shared what she learned about the health care marketplace, how unhealthy lifestyle choices contribute to the incidence of disease, and how new technologies and drugs added to treatment costs.”  Monthly health benefit education workshops on a variety of topics keep people informed of new developments.

Another benefit manager discovered that some of her company’s employees were not taking appropriate medications, which resulted in huge hospital bills when untreated conditions became acute problems.  Instead of passing these higher health care costs back to the employees, her company took a different approach.  By reducing or eliminating the cost-share requirements, employees were encouraged to take better care of their health.  A wide variety of preventive care programs became available at no cost.  Employees with common chronic conditions were encouraged to take their prescription drugs by slashing copayments.

The company also includes health education for its employees.  For example, it sends postcards to employees reminding them to have relevant health care screenings.  They are also creating a shopping list/pamphlet with food items broken into categories according to how healthy they are.

 From Business Insurance, June 27, 2011 issue, pp. 9-16.