How HR Can Deliver High-Value Healthcare
Experts discuss how HR leaders can develop high-value and equitable healthcare strategies for their employees.
The pandemic has resulted in widespread recognition of long-standing health and healthcare disparities and increased calls to address them. But there are steps employers can take today to help bridge the health equity gap, experts say.
“We don’t generally view wages as an individual attribute of health and well-being,” Bruce Sherman, chief medical officer of the National Alliance of Healthcare Buyers Coalitions, said Monday at the annual forum organisation. However, compensation is “the focus of most employees”.
Health and income are very closely linked, he said. For example, low-wage workers with diabetes are more likely to be hospitalized or go to the emergency room than those with higher wages, he said. Often, low-wage workers make decisions about their health dictated by their finances.
“People put what they think about first – they put their basic needs ahead of their health,” he said.
Employers should pay attention to the demographics of these employees and their needs, he noted.
Related: How employers hope to contain rising healthcare costs
“We are very well intentioned with what we think is best, but hearing the specific needs of these populations is the most critical thing we can do to open our eyes to our health equity opportunities,” Sherman advised. .
Are HSAs the Answer?
Providing multiple options for employee-focused health plans, along with a solid grasp of healthcare, is a place employers can start, said Cindy Dempsey, director of total rewards at Genesco, the retailer based in Nashville brands such as Johnston & Murphy and Journeys.
For years at Genesco, employees were offered a traditional PPO health care plan, which included traditional supplements for smoking and spouse.
“We really wanted to design a benefit that took into account the demographics of our employees,” said Dempsey. “We really wanted to lower the cost of access, expand preventative services, and eliminate all of those penalties. We really wanted to improve the value of the plan.
As part of its plan transformation, the retailer introduced three new plan options with an aggressive selection tool, as well as high levels of communication, she said.
Another avenue is to provide benefits among the 14 predreducible services of HSA-eligible health plans that the IRS and Treasury expanded in 2019, said Paul Fronstin, director of the health research and education program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
More than 75% of employers surveyed in a recent EBRI study said they have extended pre-deductible coverage.
The three most popular measures employers have added to their plans are the provision of insulin / other hypoglycemic agents (66%), blood pressure monitors (66%) and blood glucose monitors (61%), according to the EBRI.
It’s important that employers fully expand all pre-franchise services to include anything that is permitted by law, said Kimberly Westrich, vice president of health services research for the National Pharmaceutical Council.
“It’s a win-win in terms of retention [and] encouraging high-value care and really doesn’t cost that much to add the things allowed, ”she added.
Nick Otto is EDHdigital editor of. He is a professional communicator with over a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspapers and commercial publishing. He has spent the past five years covering employee benefits and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @Ottografs.