By Bart Yancey
Human resource departments are strapped. In addition to managing recruiting, hiring, onboarding, payroll and employee issues, HR teams are charged with health care benefits administration. And let's face it: The uncertain regulatory environment isn't helping to lessen what always has been a complex issue.
Health care is confusing. Most individuals don't understand the fundamentals of our health care system, let alone which options are best for ensuring quality care at an affordable price. As a result, they are highly susceptible to selecting plans, procedures and prescriptions that boost either their own out-of-pocket costs or their employers’ costs. And although HR teams often are tasked with controlling health care benefits spending for their organizations, they don't always have the time required to educate employees about their options effectively.
This is where brokers can help. By enhancing their traditional set of services with strategic engagement, transparency and advocacy offerings, brokers have an opportunity to help HR teams empower employees to be smarter health care shoppers. As a result, they can help reduce employer health care spending and bolster their own market value.
Interested in learning more? Here's what brokers need to know about engagement, transparency and advocacy.
- Strategic employee engagement
Many HR teams take a passive approach to health care benefits enrollment, putting the onus on employees to research their options and select the plan that meets their needs at an affordable price. The problem is that most employees don't do any research at all when it comes to selecting their health care coverage. Instead, most are apt to roll over whatever plan they had the previous year without consideration for changes in their medical needs (e.g., if they're anticipating surgery, planning for a family, etc.). This approach can result in poor employee coverage and higher costs for both the individual and the employer.
Brokers can step in to help relieve HR teams of the burden of actively educating employees around benefits enrollment and steering them toward the right plans. Through posters and texts, brokers can ensure that enrollment is on employees' radar well in advance of needing to update their plans. Brokers also can arrange webinars and one-on-one meetings with employees to ensure they are clear on their options and determine which is best for their particular situations.
- Transparency services
Brokers can deliver value to HR teams following enrollment, as well. By adding transparency services, brokers can provide employees at partner organizations with very specific information about procedural cost and quality options in order to help employees make informed decisions about their health care. When you consider that only 13 percent of people look up quality and cost data before receiving care, transparency services are extremely effective at presenting employees with multiple care and cost options, and thereby steering them toward better-educated decisions. This usually means lower health care costs for their employer — a huge win for HR teams tasked with managing health care spending.
- Advocacy services
In addition to providing transparency services, brokers may consider implementing advocacy programs. These services complement transparency by helping employees cut down on the more time-consuming tasks that come along with navigating health care. Health care advocates can help with a range of issues including identifying doctors, scheduling appointments, reviewing claims and resolving billing issues.
Medical bill errors are extremely common — one in 10 bills paid by private health insurance contains a mistake, according to a report by the American Medical Association. If employees don’t know to look for these errors, they can end up paying, or having their employers pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than is necessary. Health care advocates ensure consumers aren’t incorrectly charged or overcharged for their medical bills. Advocates also can assist employees in making necessary corrections — once again, relieving HR teams of time-intensive benefits issues and saving employers money.
Strategic employee engagement, advocacy and transparency are highly beneficial services when they are leveraged separately. However, they are most successful when combined into one cohesive plan.
For example, brokers who combine on-site enrollment support with advocates who help employees understand procedure and treatment costs throughout the year are able to better serve employer partners. This approach takes the burden off HR teams and enhances potential cost savings.
So brokers, don’t let employers succumb to the stresses of health care benefits this year. Offer them engagement, transparency and advocacy services to alleviate stress during open enrollment and beyond.
Bart Yancey is CEO of DirectPath. He may be contacted at [email protected].
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