“Yeah, but our employees are different” is a response I often hear when chatting with an employer about various strategies to improve employee interaction with the health care system. I know it’s easy to think that your employees are unique, but I’m here to tell you otherwise.
Your employees are not different. They are like every other employee in America who is struggling to navigate an opaque health care system without a clue as to the quality and price of the services they are purchasing. They are like every other employee in America who is coming to grips with the fact that they cannot afford to cover the health plan’s out of pocket limit should a health care event happen to them. They are like every other employee in America who would like to know why they continue to be told to pay more for less. This is their reality and as much as you want to think your workforce is different, they’re not. What is different is the continued growth of their out of pocket limit and the amount coming out of their paycheck every month.
Today, far too many employers continue to take a “paternal” approach to their health plan, like a parent who runs a household without rules. What you believe to be a good health plan is actually allowing consumer behavior and your health care costs to spiral out of control. Your employees have no clue how to navigate a huge PPO network where they can basically go wherever they want and spend whatever they want. What you believe is “choice” is nothing more than frustration and stress for your employees.
I know you’ve been told that a high-deductible health plan would magically turn the workforce into smart consumers, but it doesn’t. Instead, employees are forgoing health care services out of fear of the financial consequences. If you truly want to take a paternal (or maternal) approach to your health plan, it must have rules that have been created in the best interests of your employees’ health and finances.
Believe it or not, the stress around healthcare decisions lightens when employees know the rules. No, I’m not talking about denying or limiting coverage. I’m talking about making good health care decisions easy, and bad health care decisions hard. The best way to treat your employees like they’re unique and different is to provide them with a world-class health plan that allows them to access high-quality care at little to no cost. Eliminate an employee’s financial responsibility when accessing a center of excellence or an effective drug and you will create a workforce that understands what it means to be special.
If we are going to fix this mess we call health care, it must start with a change in the way employers approach health plan design. When you make it easy for employees to pay less for more, you will finally have a workforce and a health plan that is truly different.
Andy Neary is a nationally known strategist and best-selling author for employee benefits and healthcare, with more than 15 years of experience helping employers address the rising cost of healthcare through innovative strategies. As a former professional pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers, Neary understands the hard work and daily grind needed to perform at the highest level. He takes the same approach to his work in benefits, working through that daily grind to create truly elite benefit programs.