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Who Benefits? Hiring And Keeping Talent With Health Benefits While Containing Cost

Companies of all sizes across industries are facing unprecedented challenges trying to find employees to fill open positions. Fewer people are employed today than before the pandemic. According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce data, there are more than 10 million job openings in the U.S. and only 5.7 million unemployed workers. If every unemployed person got a job, there still would be more than 4 million help wanted postings. 

So, how do employers attract and retain people from an increasingly limited pool of talent? Health benefits often play a deciding role in the hiring arena. To recruit and retain great people, employers need a competitive health benefits program. But with medical price increases far outpacing inflation, how can business owners deliver valuable benefits while maintaining healthy financials? 
The good news is, there are cost-saving strategies that have nothing to do with discounts or higher deductibles. Business owners can manage health benefits spend while providing a work environment that values people—and makes them an employer of choice.

1. Dig into the data.

With our workforce scattered, how well do employers really know their employee populations? What health conditions do individuals face? Could ER visits be avoided with proactive care or knowledge on where to access care when it is needed? 

Employers can manage their healthcare spend by understanding common, costly conditions and how employees utilize their benefits. Reports identifying and explaining leading indicators will help them understand what is happening behind the numbers. 

Certain chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension can have a costly toll on their bottom line. In many cases, they can be prevented or treated with lifestyle modifications. Explore benefits plan designs with opportunities to implement care programs that evolve with employees. For example, suggest that before moving to an aggressive treatment for back problems, require chiropractic care or physical therapy.

Most importantly, emphasize the total cost of care for the covered population—the amount paid for all care and utilization patterns. Employers should realize, when their team members are healthier, they will save significantly more than any discount can offer. So, the endgame is actually employee wellness.

The Bottom Line: Metrics provide game-changing information that enable informed and strategic benefits decisions, managed utilization rates, improved health outcomes and ultimately reduced cost. 

2. Help employees to find the right care.

A study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that when people read patient education materials and communicate their understanding to a doctor, they are 32% less likely to be hospitalized and 14% less likely to visit the ER. By improving employees’ health literacy before they have to make a healthcare decision, they can choose the care that is appropriate for their needs. 

The Bottom Line: Encourage employers to advance employees’ understanding of health benefits to keep them healthy so they do not need to use the system. And when they do use the system, they should be educated to check symptoms and understand care options to choose the right one for their needs. One tool employers can offer their people is

3. Evolve with the times.

We’re living and working in a dynamic, ever-changing economy with labor challenges, rising healthcare costs and a seismic shift in what employees expect in the workplace. More than ever, they’re seeking balance and support—an understanding environment where they feel heard. 

The benefits plan employers have offered before might not suit their current population and their needs down the road. And if plan utilization metrics indicate employees are frequenting the ER, getting expensive procedures and filling costly prescription drugs, take a step back and ask: What needs to change? How can we do this better? 

The Bottom Line: Healthy employees are more productive, and businesses that promote wellness and supports employees outperform those focused only on healthcare cost and bottom-line performance. Stop accepting the status quo. When employers hear, “We have always done it that way,” they should ask the question, “So, how do we change that?”

Your Recruiting & Retention Employee Benefits Cheat Sheet:

  • Study the metrics and understand how employees utilize health benefits so they can make more informed plan decisions.
  • Understand the value of employee health benefits.
  • Share health education resources with employees.

About Health Action Council 
Health Action Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid-and large-size employers that enhance human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees. Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the community.

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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