There are many ways employers can facilitate a healthier workplace environment, so that employees have fewer trips to the doctor, more productive work hours and less time spent away from their jobs. Here are some ideas for creating a culture of health at your place of business.
1. Allow work station snacking and lunches. When employers tell their staff they aren’t allowed to eat at their desks, they are essentially forcing them to go out for lunch – which means fattier, less nutritious lunches that take their toll on the body. By allowing workers to eat at their desks if they like, employers are encouraging staff to bring healthy sandwiches, salads and other low-calorie lunches from home.
2. Encourage workplace movement. When employees are tethered to their desks, they feel sleepier, act more sluggish and burn fewer calories. So as long as they are still meeting their goals and staying on task, why not allow them the freedom to move as they need to? Employers can even post suggestions for workstation exercises in the break room, or hold fun “movement meetings” on a weekly basis. This is a great way to liven up the company culture while helping employees stay healthy.
3. Reward weight loss. Lots of large companies have programs that reward employees for hitting their weight loss goals; why can’t you do the same at your business? While it may not be possible to provide free gym memberships, it might be reasonable to hold an annual weight loss competition with a coveted gift card as a prize. Organized weight loss groups have long been part of professional culture anyways, so it just makes sense for employers to encourage them.
By creating a workplace culture that encourages vitality, employers can improve the overall health of their workforce and minimize healthcare costs. Try these tips for encouraging a healthier workforce; we believe they will make a noticeable difference.
One thing that employers may not understand is that technology can help them determine how much they should be paying for their employee health plans. With the right software, an employer can see exactly what the real cost of covering each employee is versus what the providers in the network are charging them. Providers need to make money, of course, so no one should expect to pay only the real cost of care – but if employers can see which providers have the smallest margins between real cost and cost of treatment, that can help them put together a network that will cost less out of pocket for both themselves and their employees.
But how can an employer have access to software like this? It is typically only available from a reputable healthcare consultant – specifically, a consultant that is independent of any insurer or network. At GM&A, one of the ways we help employers create customized health plan networks for employees is with our proprietary software; this software is designed exclusively for the purpose of analyzing real cost vs. cost of treatment, so employers can see the contrast and choose providers that have the narrowest margins (a.k.a., the lowest cost).
Furthermore, we can use the actual data from the employees’ own claims to create the most accurate calculations possible (yes, this is legal; federal law grants ownership of claims information to the employer in those cases). With the numbers right in front of them, employers can see exactly what they would pay if those specific providers were in the network. This is high-level healthcare consultation service that employers can benefit from substantially, particularly if they have been affected by the Affordable Care Act and are seeking the most affordable way to provide medical benefits to employees. Contact us if you would like to schedule a complimentary employer healthcare consultation.
Thanks to federal legislation making healthcare costs rise for everyone, there is a bigger affordability gap than ever in healthcare. As a result, many corporations are noting that their employees are opting to avoid risks more than they did previously because they fear having to pay for treatment if they get hurt or become sick. That may seem like a good thing on its face, because it implies that fewer people are jumping out of planes and doing things that most of us consider highly risky. But risk aversion is much more than that. In some cases, people are becoming unenthusiastic about healthy activities, simply to avoid the risk involved. Those risks include:
Exercising. “I can’t afford for my knee to go out,” or “my back can’t handle it, and I can’t handle the co-pay if it acts up” are common healthcare cost excuses for avoiding exercise. That means fewer walks, jogs and trips to the gym – and more pounds packed on, thereby exacerbating the problem.
Going outdoors. With summer approaching, many people have sun exposure risks on their minds. Although they know, logically, that applying sunscreen can minimize their skin cancer risks, some people in our hyper-cautious culture are leery of going outside at all – and they pass that fear along to their children. It may or may not be cost related, but it’s a fear that has many people cutting back on the healthy practice of enjoying the sunshine.
Swimming. This is another summer activity that has been on the decline in recent years. Some of it is safety, but much of it is also connected to healthcare costs. “I can’t afford for my child to get an ear infection” is a common excuse among today’s parents when it comes to keeping kids out of the pool. It’s a shame, and it has only aggravated the childhood obesity epidemic.
Employers can encourage healthier habits among their employees by implementing a company healthcare plan that keeps premiums and deductibles low while still providing great coverage and a wide range of providers in the local area. That’s what direct contracting is all about. Ask us for a complimentary health plan analysis to learn more.
As summer approaches, employers start to look at any new health plan options that may be available so that they can be prepared in the fall when re-enrollment time rolls around. For unionized employers, members often get the opportunity to vote on whether to keep their current company health plan. That begs the question, should non-unionized employers get the chance to do the same thing? And if so, should the employees have the chance to vote on a new model of health coverage altogether, like the direct contracting system?
That would seem to make sense. After all, what employee wouldn’t like the opportunity to vote for lower deductibles, lower out of pocket costs and access to better healthcare providers – not to mention more access to important healthcare services like life-saving surgeries, transplants and other specialized care?
Employers have nothing to be afraid of when it comes to giving employees a vote, because the direct contracting model will save them money, too – and on an equally important matter, it can also help them retain their key employees for another year. There is ample documentation to suggest that quality medical coverage plays a big role in employee retention, and that is the case across the board: at large employers, small employers and for employees of all ages. People know that good healthcare coverage is a valuable thing to have in life, now more than ever because healthcare has been thrust into the national spotlight like never before.
If you are an employer that is mulling your options for the 2015-16 health plan enrollment period, consider offering your employees a vote on the matter after you have learned more about direct contracting and given them the opportunity to learn more about it, too. You may be pleasantly surprise by the results.
One of the biggest ways that healthcare is going non-traditional is with the new phenomenon of telemedicine, which is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications. In a practical application, telemedicine could involve any of these scenarios:
- Patients sending their list of symptoms to their provider via email or electronic form
- “Phone appointments” with physicians, which include symptom analysis and diagnosis
- Lab results being delivered via phone or email
- Prescriptions being emailed by the provider, then printed by the patient for fulfillment at a local pharmacy
- Prescriptions being emailed by the provider to the patient, and then fulfilled/mailed to the patient
Why should employers know about telemedicine? Because experts are calling it a possible new strategy for reducing health insurance costs. This makes sense, as receiving clinical services remotely can reduce the amount of time employees spend away from work. It can also improve access to healthcare services for employers in rural areas. If the employer partners with a network that offers telemedicine, it can greatly improve the chances of retaining local employees. The last thing any employer wants is to lose its staff because the location offered poor access to healthcare.
Is telemedicine perfect? No, at least not yet; some of the potential problems experts have pointed to include legal and regulatory issues at the state level, privacy concerns and low physician buy-in – not to mention the potential for claims reimbursement issues. “Telemedicine reimbursement claims are treated differently from in-person care by physicians,” one recent study revealed. “Barriers to reimbursement include greater denials for (telemedicine) services than for in-person services, billing and coding issues, and a pre-authorization requirement for telemedicine services not needed for traditional care.” This should be expected in the early adoption stage, but as telemedicine becomes more mainstream, it seems natural that insurance companies will create streamlined models for reimbursing physicians who provide telemedicine services.
For employers that want to improve access for employees and watch out for the company’s bottom line, embracing telemedicine is one new strategy that may pay off. GM&A gladly works with providers who deliver telemedicine services; if you are one such provider, feel free to contact us.