How To Turn Your Employee Health Plan Into A Competitive Advantage
Your company provides the lifeline to many facets of your employees’ lives beyond just money and purpose. One of the most gargantuan challenges you take on is becoming the de facto expert on healthcare. In the face of shrinking profits and stiff competition, no longer are you able to enjoy the passive consumption of healthcare and blindly trust that the products you provide your employees are enough — or even effective and meaningful.
Pair the need to drive a competitive advantage in your market with the social rhetoric of a broken healthcare system, and you face a dynamic narrative you must change in order to provide a meaningful and engaging workplace. But how can you reverse this negative trend when it can seem like a hopeless endeavor? I suggest we start to seek nuggets of positive truths and separate them from the mounds of personal, promotional or political self-interest that is opposed to your business strategy and the health and financial wellness of your people.
Along with the responsibility to be the savvy leader on behalf of your company, you also carry the burden of unspoken leadership that spills directly into the lives of your employees. Unfortunately, we often only wake up to this reality when we’re sucker-punched by the collision of outrageous medical expenses and vastly insufficient savings our employees have to deal with because they are subject to the health plans and guidance we provide through so-called world-class health insurance.
What happens when you recognize the role you can play in reversing or avoiding this healthcare failure?
I won’t lead you astray — the first step of recognizing the complicit role we’ve played in allowing healthcare and health insurance to run in direct opposition to our business and financial goals is initially a painful, gut-wrenching feeling that you must embrace and then catalyze. This will help enable you to stop being complicit in the conflict between wages, wealth and health, and will lead you down an uncommon path.
To identify the behaviors and beliefs that separate us from our desired goals, I have labeled them “healthcare sins.” And, to identify a path forward from these flawed interactions, I would like to propose behaviors and beliefs that will lead us to a system full of “healthcare redemption.”
What is the first Healthcare Sin your company should tackle?
All choices appear to cost the same. Copays, deductibles, and co-insurance terminology are flat and consistent messages health care plans give your employees. What these terms don’t cover are all the questions surrounding time, quality, treatment efficacy and the negative financial impact of a journey from illness to health.
How often have you heard a discussion regarding a medical treatment only spoken about in terms of illness and cost? Yet rarely do you hear an employee talk about quality, recovery time and the ultimate four-letter word: cure.
Healthcare Redemption: Rewards for smarter choices
This new journey begs you to turn the conversation around and empower your employees to have more control by providing rewards for smarter choices.
Start slowly but purposefully. Trickle in small conversations first with your leadership and then with your whole organization by sharing and discussing easily digestible information from free resources like the Leapfrog Group’s quality scores. Watch for reactions and key in on conversations that arise concerning hospitals, surgical facilities, and providers in your area. These will be key points to use once you start a more thorough shift in your workforce’s health care consciousness. Once easily digestible and relevant information is discussed, instead of just a deductible or copay, employees get engaged in the discussion and thirst to learn more.
You can build on this small groundswell and thirst for change by going one step further. Explore the new growing marketplace by offering both free and paid resources that help guide your workforce, with both human and A.I.-enabled assistance to make better decisions based on quality, efficacy, evidence-based outcomes and, ultimately, cost. Just start looking for services that offer cost- and quality-based transparency tools. One quick word of caution here: Many of these services are new and growing, so be sure they have a good footprint in your region to avoid employee frustration.
Look for other leaders whose tactics you can replicate to make a bigger stride forward. Get inspired by stories like the Phia Group’s. They offer a program that provides free diapers for two years for employees who choose to give birth at a lower-cost hospital, which saves the employer a few thousand dollars per delivery. Or dream a little bit about the power of waiving your employee’s deductible when they use a higher-quality provider that also charges your health plan a lower or flat-rate fee.
Once your workforce is engaged, rewarded and empowered, you have opened a new pathway that can lead to healthcare redemption. Before you know it, you’ve built this new community in your own company that is on the path with you toward the Utopian goal of lower-cost, higher-quality health care that is no longer stifling wage growth or eroding company profits.
The end result?
There are many more healthcare sins and practical steps to healthcare redemption we should discover and share with others on this same journey. But the power of leading the charge to healthcare redemption will give you the ultimate competitive advantage. Your culture will perpetuate a reduction in your healthcare costs, empower employees to be healthier and give your community a “why” unmatched in your industry.
About the author: An avid learner and resourceful leader with a passion for problem-solving, Bret is a calming force in the chaos and fast-paced evolution of health insurance, employee benefits, and the growing burden of regulatory compliance. He helps people develop the confidence to see beyond the problem at hand and start to re-imagine their goals. Whether he’s helping a client or a colleague, Bret believes a successful interaction is one that allows us all to dream a little bigger when we’re done.
About Generous Benefits: Generous Benefits (www.generousbenefits.com) focuses on solutions that improve the community you serve.