The latest Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan DesignSurvey from the National Business Group on Health highlights anumber of leading trends among employee health and benefits. Whileresponses are from large employers, the results are oftenindicative of issues impacting businesses of all sizes across thecountry. Although prioritization and the impact of these issues mayvary among organizations of different sizes, other matters areuniversal.

|

Topping this list is healthcare costs. Unsurprisingly, the survey found that participatingemployers anticipate health care costs will continue to rise. In anearly estimate, average health care costs are projected to increase5 percent in the next year, including both employer and employeecontributions. These inexorable annual increases place a burden onboth organizations and their employees.

|

Related: The consumer engagement model is poised to shake upthe benefits industry

|

Simultaneously, the complexity of health care is alsoincreasing, leading to reduced productivity and utilization ofbenefit programs. Further contributing to the complicated benefitsenvironment is the growing number of standalone services availableto employees. While wellness programs, EAPs, pricing transparencytools, disease management programs and others may be valuableresources to help employees improve their overall health andwell-being, employees facing a health issue are often overwhelmed and unsure where to turn forassistance.

|

In fact, a 2016 Health Advocate survey found that 42 percent ofHR leaders partner with, on average, four to six benefits vendorsto provide these programs. Although technology has a firmly established role inaccess to benefits information, the NBGH survey uncovered anothertrend. As organizations look to address both rising costs andcomplexity, they increasingly turn to high-touch, personalized,live-agent support services.

Rise of high-touch support services

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) and advocacy services haveexisted for quite some time. As health care has become morecomplicated, these services provide much needed assistance. Intoday’s health benefits environment, they are more important thanever and continue to adapt, evolve and grow to meet the changingand increasing needs of employees. While apps, websites and othertech tools are important complements to these services, they cannotreplace the value of live support.

|

As organizations continue to adopt consumer-driven health plans(CDHPs), employees take on more responsibility for their health andneed additional assistance navigating the complexities of thehealth care system. According to the NBGH survey, in 2018, 90percent of large employers will offer a CDHP option, with a risingpercentage making this the only available option. We’re nowwitnessing a correlation between the shift to CDHPs and the growinguse of high-touch and decision support services, and data from theNBGH survey further establishes this.

|

Employers are seeking strategies, services and tools to helptheir employees both maximize their benefits and more easily accesshigh-value care. Organizations surveyed by NBGH indicate theoffering of these programs will increase up to 20 percent from 2017to 2018, including medical decision support and second opinionservices; advocacy and claims assistance resources; and high-touchconcierge services. These services positively impact both employeesand organizations as the health care system and employee benefitscontinue to become more complicated.

Benefits of advocacy and concierge tools

When companies implement third-party support services, theeffects can be felt throughout the organization, includingimmediately relieving the strain on human resources staff. HR andbenefits professionals are often stretched thin, especially duringopen enrollment. Advocacy services can function as HR outsourcers,assuming roles delegated to them for employee support during“Crunch Time.” Partnering with an advocacy service augments theirbandwidth, enabling the HR and benefits teams to focus on thehighest priority items.

|

For employees, these services “meet them where they are” bybalancing emerging technologies with high-touch support, ensuringthat their needs are effectively met in the way that works best forthem. Although technology plays an important role, mostinteractions these days are “hybrids,” mixing digital navigationand live personal support.

|

As a complement to this, many support programs have thecapability to enhance and personalize communications to engageemployees and help them proactively take charge of their health.According to NBGH survey respondents, this is one of the mosteffective tactics to manage rising costs and dovetails well withadvocacy services.

|

These services can also impact an organization’s bottom line.When experts step in to help troubleshoot challenging issues, itsaves employees time, money and stress by taking this burden offtheir shoulders. Further, when employees are able to focus on workinstead of personal health issues during the work day, productivityincreases across the organization. Making the health care systemfunction more efficiently and effectively for the user results inbetter outcomes and lower costs, creating savings that drop rightto the bottom line.

|

Employers provide their workforce with a number of usefulbenefits. However, the sheer number can sometimes be overwhelming,leading to lack of engagement. As a partner to the organization,benefits support services can help raise awareness of availableresources and ensure employees understand how to maximize theirbenefits. By guiding employees to cost-effective care, it ispossible to lower overall costs for both employees and theorganization.

|

While increased productivity and reduced costs are highpriorities, the health and well-being of employees is paramount.Advocacy services provide a wealth of knowledge and expert decisionsupport to help employees make informed choices and more easilyaccess appropriate care. Combined with outreach to encourage morepreventive care and condition management, these services can helpmove the needle toward better outcomes throughout the coveredpopulation.

|

High-touch, personalized support remains critical to assistingemployees as they navigate the often confusing health care system.By incorporating these services into existing benefits offerings,organizations can achieve “the health care trifecta;” increasedproductivity, managed costs and improved health outcomes.

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.