Solutions to Reduce Health Care Costs

July 7th, 2014 by Laura Noonan

It is without question that health insurance premiums continue to increase at an alarming rate for employers across the country.  These rate increases are the result of multiple factors including costs associated with health care reform, increased utilization of our health care system, and chronic illness.  At Landmark Benefits, we have been successful at implementing solutions that will have an impact on the long term cost of a health plan and this article will share a few of those solutions.

Wellness Programs:  The wellness programs at Landmark Benefits have proven very successful over the past 17 years.  All of the employers that have engaged in these programs have witnessed changes in the workforce to include a healthier population, reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, greater teamwork, and a positive environment.

Rewards for Good Health:  Offer financial incentives to employees who have healthy habits and lifestyles or those who participate in wellness programs at work. Penalize workers with higher premiums for engaging in unhealthy activities, such as smoking.  Offer discounted rates for those who participate in wellness programs and maintain good health.

Preventive Care Benefits:  Encourage employee use of preventive care benefits, including appropriate screenings and vaccinations.  Emphasize that these services are available at no cost to employees.  Landmark Benefits will assist you in the promotion of these benefits with a variety of promotional tools that we have available for our clients.

On-site Health Centers:  Although just starting to gain a degree of popularity with larger employers, providing the opportunity for employees to visit with a health care professional at the worksite offers a solutions to ensure your employees have access to affordable health care.  On-site health centers and staff health coaches to provide advice on personal health needs and make seeking care more cost-effective and convenient.

Catering to Individual Needs:  With many employers increasing the deductibles and out of pocket expenses, many are now offering voluntary benefit options that will assist the employee when faced with specific health events, e.g. admission to the hospital, accident, or chronic illness.  In an effort to provide a diverse employee benefit offering; other employers are now providing discounts on vision and dental care, massage therapy, chiropractic care, health club memberships and weight-control programs.

Health Reimbursement Account (HRA):  At Landmark Benefits, we have been administering HRA’s on behalf of our clients for a very long time.  With reasonable predictability, we are able to forecast the plan savings with an increase in plan deductible and determine the potential impact to the employee.  Following this process the employer will consider sharing in the additional out of pocket expense by providing a tax free benefit to the employee.

Communication Tools:  Provide online tools for employees, including health education and other resources, to help them become smarter health care consumers.  With your partnership with Landmark Benefits and our wellness team, we can provide you with some of our preferred providers that will deliver complimentary resources to your employees and their dependents.

Consumer-driven Health Plans:  Some employers may benefit from offering a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).  You may believe that you have a HDHP today with a $2,000 or $3,000 deductible; however, these plans subject all health care services, with the exception of preventive care, to the plan deductible.   This plan approach may benefit some companies but, based on anticipated utilization, is not the best option for all employers.  To complement the HDHP, employers may consider setting up a health reimbursement account (HRA) or health savings account (HSA) to promote consumerism and reduce costs.

Analyze Dependent Coverage:  Some of our clients require employees to pay higher premiums if their spouses can obtain health coverage through their employers.  Additionally, It would be in your best interest to conduct an eligibility audit to verify that dependents are legal dependents and to remove ineligible dependents from the plan. Some plans are also starting to charge more for dependent coverage.

Align Your Goals:  Align business goals with health goals and devise a way for individuals or departments to lose weight, start exercising and/or stop engaging in unhealthy habits.  Use marketing techniques that will motivate employees to take action.

Coinsurance:  With your next plan selection, consider incorporating coinsurance on your plan after the plan deductible.  The coinsurance requires that the member be responsible for a specific percent of the health care costs after the deductible.  This feature could reduce the total premium by 5% to 10%.  The feature will also make your employees more aware of their health care expenses.

Encourage the Use of Generic Drugs:   Although some members of your plan may not be able to take generic drugs, the cost difference between brand and generic is substantial within your health plan.  As an employer, you may suggest that employees use the generic form of their prescriptions (if available) to save money.  It will put more money in their wallet and reduce your long term health care costs.

Network Changes:  Some of our clients have the opportunity to change their plan network to reduce health care costs.  These limited networks will immediately reduce health care premiums; however, many employer prefer to offer the option of a comprehensive network and a limited network to ensure the employees and their dependents can continue to have access to their physician.  Some limited networks can reduce health insurance premiums by as much as 15%.

Take time this year to ensure that  is making the right choices in plan design and benefits offerings. Implementing these health strategies can help reduce costs and promote a healthier workforce.

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