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    Controlling Healthcare Costs Through Transparency and Open Communication

    It’s no secret that healthcare costs are on the rise. In fact, they have consistently risen over the last several years, with employee benefits comprising nearly 1/3 of total employee compensation-spending, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    As a business leader, there are some things that are ultimately out of your hands when it comes to healthcare costs; however, there are tactics that you and your employees can deploy to better manage their overall health and ultimately reduce costs. One of the most recent trends in controlling healthcare costs is wellness programs. Instituting a wellness program can help increase on-the-job productivity, reduce absenteeism, improve employee satisfaction, and help reduce the amount of money spent on insurance plans.

    Transparency and open communication

    One cost-controlling method that is often overlooked by business leaders and benefits administrators is transparency and open communication. Let’s face it—understanding health plan jargon can be challenging—particularly for your employees. Consumers typically don’t realize that depending on their health plan, they may have options to shop around for different providers or medications that could not only be a viable health option but also help reduce claim costs.

    Prescription drugs are a major driver of healthcare costs for individuals and employers. Prices increase an average of 4% a year, and specialty drugs—already the most expensive category—increase by 21% per year. But, are your employees aware of the cost differences between brand name and generic prescription drugs? By simply sharing high-level stats or data on your company intranet, during open enrollment or through your email communication, you could help your employees make more informed health decisions that reduce costs for you both.

    Related reading: Benefits Communication 101

    What can you do to help drive cost containment?

    • Openly communicate with your employees

    • Provide resources and educational materials surrounding your health plans

    • Be transparent about how their decisions affect claims costs (and the ultimate trickle-down effect it can have on the business)

    Employee education

    One way that education can have a major impact on controlling costs is by helping your employees understand the difference between urgent care and emergency room visits. It’s important that your employees understand the differences between the two facilities, what each facility is best equipped to treat, and the associated costs. You can support their understanding and education by:

    • Encouraging your employees to become familiar with the specifics of their health plan including copayments and coinsurance for an office, urgent care facility, or hospital emergency room visit

    • Ensuring your employees know that ignoring or postponing care for basic illnesses can result in delayed medical attention and the difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical claims

    • Informing employees that emergency room visits are best reserved for life-threatening injuries and illness and serious medical conditions. It could help to provide specific examples of these cases:

      • Uncontrollable bleeding, poisoning, serious burns or cuts, seizures or loss of consciousness, heart attacks or strokes, broken bones, severe abdominal pain

    • Providing guidance on when an urgent care facility may be the best option for care such as:

      • If their doctor recommends it; their symptoms or injury have occurred after office hours; they are out of town; or they don’t have a primary care physician

      • If they have illnesses or symptoms such as: ear infections, controlled bleeding or cuts that need stitches, diagnostic services, high fever, flu, minor broken bones, rashes, and infections

    At a time when the cost of employee benefits coverage is on the rise, it’s important for employers and employees to work together to make sound healthcare decisions. By educating your employees on the difference between urgent care and emergency room visits, you could take one step closer to being a more transparent, cost-conscious organization.

    If you’re interested in exploring innovative strategies for managing your company’s health benefits costs, schedule a consultation today.

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    Employee Health & Wellness

    Jonathan Amato

    Jonathan Amato is the Director of Sales for SWBC’s Employee Benefits Consulting division. He works with companies to create a customized employee benefits package that fits within their budget and culture. His clients have ranged from two employees to well over 1,000 employees in both fully-insured and self-funded plans. Additionally, Jonathan has served as the President for the Sam Houston Alamo Are Alumni Club and is a member of the Founder’s Council.

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