The Next Big Thing in Employee Benefits Innovation
Employee benefit innovation works like a game of follow the leader. This is how it typically goes... In an effort to save money, benefit pros at large employers work closely with brokers and insurers to make changes to their employee benefit plans. Sometimes these changes develop into new products. Insurers market these product innovations to medium to small size companies and soon everyone is using the same products.
For example, about a decade ago large employers implemented workplace wellness programs in an effort to constrain healthcare cost. Eventually insurers and their wellness vendor partners developed their own wellness program products. Today “wellness benefits” are a standard part of health plans.
A New Day for Employee Benefit Innovation
As companies continue to shift healthcare cost increases to employees, there will come a time when employees say we can’t handle another increase. Employees will demand other options and top benefit pros will deliver. One option that may be an even better cost saver than wellness programs or consumer driven health plans is a price transparency program.
Now, there are several price transparency tools out there; I have written about them before and have several listed on my website. But I do not know of one comprehensive workplace-based price transparency program. Maybe there are a few but I am not aware of them. But if I am right about this being a new concept in workplace healthcare cost control, let me provide a few reasons why they are more effective than workplace wellness programs.
- They do not involve significant behavioral changes
- They get right to the root of the problem--the price of care
- They do not discriminate and are not controversial
What Would a Healthcare Price Transparency Program Look Like?
Aside from offering the many online healthcare price tools already available, employers can…
- Create a Healthcare Price App – employees and their dependents can anonymously submit the prices they were charged and paid for medical services to a secure database that other employees can view
- Offer Price Transparency Concierge Services – employees want to pay the lowest price for care but are sometimes too busy to make the effort. A price transparency advocate can do it for them. Cost to be paid by the employer…
- Offer Incentives – employees sign an affidavit statement attesting that they will use the price transparency tools made available to them and receive a premium discount
- Create a Comprehensive Price Transparency Communications Program – stories about how one hospital charges $25 for blood tests while another across town charges $1,125 gets everyone’s attention. Share these headline stories with employees. Also, encourage employees to share details of how they saved money by comparing charges for care (of course you want to eliminate any identifying information…)
- Collaborate With Insurers/TPAs – make sure your health insurer or third party administrator’s price tools are robust, up-to-date, prominently displayed on the website, and constantly communicated. Ask your insurer to create and end-of-year “you could have saved” statement for employees
Employee benefit innovation does not have to start with the big boys. Small and medium-size companies can create programs to reduce healthcare cost for employees. A comprehensive price transparency program is an employee benefit innovation any company can implement.
What ideas do you have to promote the use of healthcare price comparison tools?