Create A Critical Illness Employee Assistance Checklist

Helping an ill employee understand and use their health insurance benefits is a daily occurrence in every HR benefits office. But from time to time benefit pros must assist an employee who is experiencing a life threatening illness. And while some benefits pros may be tempted to treat these employees like all others needing their assistance, top benefit pros know that critically ill employees need more than advice about the mechanics of their health plan. They need a benefits advocate and amateur therapist.

A Benefits Advocate for Critically Ill Employees

Critically ill employees have more than a major illness to conquer. They may not be able to work full-time or at all. If unable to earn income, they may need assistance paying their bills. They may not have family members or friends capable of assisting them with transportation needs, food preparation and other daily life activities.

In addition to sharing the status of their health with their benefits representative, these employees often share their personal situation. This puts benefit professionals in a unique position to use all of their expertise and resources to help these employees and their families. And because these situations will arise more than once in the career of the average benefit pro, a critically ill employee assistance checklist is a must.

Checklist (not exhaustive and in no particular order):
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Focusing On The Limits Of Healthcare Price Transparency Tools Can Limit Their Growth

There are primarily four very influential groups that decide what health insurance plans workers can access and the price of those plans. These groups include employers, policymakers, insurance companies, and medical care professionals and administrators. Unfortunately, these groups are doing very little to control healthcare costs.

Employers do not use their buying power and size to demand lower health plan premiums. Policymakers do not support regulations to control medical care prices. Health insurance companies do not work with regulators and health care professionals to improve administrative efficiencies. And medical care professionals and administrators ignore the impact of high medical care prices on consumers.

So with still no say on health plan design and price, workers now have primary responsibility for dealing with high healthcare costs. And they have no choice but to use the few tools available to them—wellness programs and price transparency tools. Wellness programs aren’t turning out to be the cost savers that everyone wanted them to be, but price transparency tools could. But first the focus needs to change from the limitation of transparency tools to making them more robust.
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Employees and Employers Must Make Tough Benefit Decisions Together

Employers refer to it as the employee benefits package, but most benefit designs address each type of benefit separately. In fact, most benefit programs divide benefits information into three or four categories. You have your health insurance benefits that include medical, dental, and vision and insurance and health accounts. You also have your welfare benefits such as life and disability insurance and other ancillary benefits. Additionally, you may have a separate wellness program. And finally, you have your retirement savings benefits.

Management expects employees to choose benefits from each section of the benefits package. No thought is given to the fact employees cannot afford to pay for a comprehensive benefits package. But in reality, many employees find it difficult to pay health insurance premiums and out of pocket medical costs and contribute to a retirement plan. For some, it is one or the other.

Benefit pros need to design their benefit programs as an entire package. They also need to acknowledge the economic challenges some employees face when making benefit plan elections. They should then develop an approach to address these challenges.

Designing A Benefits Program With Employee Finances in Mind

Have a philosophy about your benefits program. Is your goal to offer just some of everything or are some benefits more important than others? Do you view your benefits program as just away to attract or retain employees or are you interested in their financial wellbeing? Think about what kind of benefits program you want to offer and make sure all of your decisions about which plans to offer and their cost support your philosophy. Continue Reading...

The Ebola Epidemic is a Reminder to Take Workplace Safety Seriously

One of the benefits of working as an employee benefit professional in a small to mid-size company is that your job duties are broad. In addition to administering health and retirement plans, a benefits pro may manage the workers' compensation, safety and security programs. In larger organizations multiple individuals in multiple departments such as human resources, risk management and security perform these tasks.

If you are a benefits pro who assumes risk management duties such as safety and security, you need a whole other skill set from your basic health insurance and retirement plans. These skills include but are not limited to:
  • Handling workplace emergencies
  • Identifying and removing hazards
  • First aid
  • Facility inspections, and
  • Safety procedures
You also need to know what is going on in the wider community and in the world and how it may impact your workplace. For example, the flu pandemic (swine flu) of 2009 meant that employers had to do more than offer their standard workplace flu shot programs. Employee benefit professionals responsible for health and safety had to educate workers about the pandemic and provide information and guidance on how to stay healthy. Continue Reading...