Although we may have hit the bottom of the economic slump, HR leaders are still faced with overcoming one of their greatest challenges –- the continual rise of healthcare costs. Now more than ever, companies are faced with making hard choices on how to trim costs yet keep employees motivated.
A double-digit rise in healthcare costs is expected in 2010 while companies are still struggling with the lingering effects of the slowed economy. Although passing some of that increase on to employees may be inevitable, there’s never been a better time to review and reevaluate your healthcare plans to determine if you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. It may also be time to rebrand your benefits message to better educate your employees on just how much you do for them now.
Keeping employees healthy
Chronically ill employees and their dependents account for at least half of companies’ overall healthcare costs. Thus, employers have a vested interest in keeping employees healthy. Numerous companies already offer smoking cessation or Weight Watchers at Work® to employees. Perhaps it’s time to step up your game and create a Corporate Wellness Program to combat the Big Four health concerns: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Components of a company-wide initiative could include:
- Partial or full membership reimbursement for employees who regularly attend the gym.
- Nutritional counseling or cooking healthy courses taught in-house.
- Company-organized walks, yoga or bike rides for employees after work.
- Company-wide weight loss competition.
- Offering pedometers to employees along with suggestions on how to achieve 10,000 steps a day.
- Web training and/or guest lecturers on different aspects of health and wellness.
- Free blood pressure screening at the office.
- Financial incentives for achieving positive results.
Not only can these initiatives result in better employee health and lower healthcare costs, it can also boost employee morale by demonstrating honest concern on behalf of the company for your employees.
Ensuring who you’re insuring
Big companies such as Boeing, General Motors and American Airlines were among the early consumers of the dependent audit to ensure that spouses and children indeed qualified for medical benefits. However, it’s become commonplace for companies of all sizes to conduct a dependent audit to ensure who they’re insuring.
Results vary typically based on the size of the company, but a conservative estimate is that between three percent and eight percent of covered dependents are not eligible for the company’s medical plans (some estimates are as high as 20 percent). While a dependent audit can be a source of angst amongst employees, if coached correctly, it can be seen as a means for reducing costs to both the employee and the employer.
Before beginning an audit, employees should be reminded of qualification requirements and given a grace period to remove any ineligible dependents. Sufficient time (45 to 60 days) should be allowed for employees to locate the proper documentation. An appeals process should be established before you begin the audit for employees to seek reinstatement of any non-respondents or dependents deemed ineligible. It’s also critical to ensure you’re asking for the right documentation as well (i.e., a marriage certificate does not necessarily prove that a couple is still married).
Finally, there is a growing trend amongst companies to require working spouses to utilize the healthcare provided by their respective employers. Spousal surcharges are one option to combat this issue while a proactive approach may be to provide a financial incentive to the employee for their spouse opting out of your plan.
Rebranding your benefits message
Better benefits communications result in employees being more satisfied with what the company offers in addition to greater participation amongst employees. Thus, it may be time to step up your communication efforts and go beyond merely sending out the usual booklets.
With the rapid changes in technology, take advantage of multiple platforms to reach employees the way they learn best. Appeal to the Millennial employee using a YouTube approach of online videos to explain the options or any complicated decisions that employees may need to make. Multiple videos should be used with no more than roughly ten minutes to ensure employees are engaged throughout.
Other options include automated telephone messaging, interactive Web tools and e-mails tailored to recipients. Webinars and podcasts are also gaining in popularity as a means for informing employees about company-sponsored benefits plans. Text messaging campaigns are also a growing tool for the company committed to reaching employees at every level.
It all boils down to the fact that the more information you can get your employees to read and digest, the more satisfied your employees will be with what your company
Getting creative with your benefits can have a definite impact on your company’s bottom line while also reengaging employees. Now is the time to take that leap and think outside the box!