4 Ways Employers Can Soften the Blow of High Deductible Health Plans

January 26, 2016

Teira Gunlock

For most employers and benefits administrators, your main goal is to offset escalating healthcare costs. Benefits packages will always include major medical, dental and vision policies for all employees, but with the industry’s surging costs you may turn to other quality programs and benefits to soften the blow.

High-deductible health plans are one such option. More and more employers are choosing to provide HDHP coverage for their employees, hoping to mitigate premium increases, and adding a health savings plan to offset the higher out-of-pocket costs. This can be a very beneficial compromise for the majority of participants.

But paying out of pocket for healthcare is not something employees are accustomed to just yet, and they may not always see HDHP coverage as a great thing. This means you’ll need to find benefits to supplement and support them in other ways.

These 4 things are worth considering in your search to soften the blow of high deductible plans (without sacrificing quality care and coverage for your employees):

1. Provide decision support 

Consumer-driven healthcare is the result of the shifting of healthcare costs from the employer to the employee. With HDHP coverage, employees are responsible for paying out of pocket until they reach their deductibles. But until now, they haven’t had the tools available to shop for healthcare.

To help them, consider providing tools that will help your employees shop for pricing and information about diagnostic treatments. Advocacy programs can also help them navigate a complicated healthcare system when they need decision support.

2. Offer programs that reduce out-of-pocket costs

Paying out-of-pocket is often seen as the most obvious con to HDHP, and offering your employees ways to reduce those costs can give them the support they need.

Staying healthy and being proactive about health is the best way to reduce out-of-pocket costs. Consider offering a vaccination program to reduce incidence of the flu in the office. Or offer wellness and disease management programs to help reduce the cost of managing more chronic conditions.

Telemedicine is another option that helps keeps patients out of the more costly doctor’s office, urgent care, and ER by giving diagnosis and treatment over the phone.

Solutions that offer consultations without a copay are the only ones that employees will actually use and have no cost to your employees.

3. Engage employees in new benefits

All the new programs available to help educate employees on their health and how they should use healthcare can cause confusion and information overload. This can cause people to revert to how they have always done things rather than embrace new ways of doing things.

To offset that "scare," encourage vendors to educate your employees on how to use new services to help them reduce their out-of-pocket healthcare costs. This engagement will drive utilization of the benefit, which only serves to help employees save time and money, and makes your investment in the benefit worthwhile.

4. Implement off-cycle to increase engagement.

When you do start to implement some of these supplemental programs, avoid doing so all at once. Slamming your employees with new programs can be confusing and may overwhelm them.

Allow some breathing room between roll-outs and think of your benefits package as an always updated, circular conversation around employee well-being––not just a once-a-year slam that boggles the staff with paperwork, deadlines, and information.

For some of your employees, HDHP coverage will be a smart, relevant option. But for others, supplementing their healthcare coverage with time- and money-saving programs can soften the blow.

Giving them opportunities to learn more, reduce costs for them, and give them a “breather” will ease their transition into HDHP coverage.

Stay focused on doing the best for your employees, even under the pressures of a healthcare industry with skyrocketing costs:

  • Provide transparency tools
  • Offer solutions that reduce out-of-pocket costs
  • Encourage high engagement
  • Space out the roll out of new benefits

Your employees will receive their well-deserved benefits and feel more comfortable with the extra guidance from you.

Telemedicine is one of the first things you should research in this process for its time- and money-saving benefits.

Originally published Jan 26, 2016 1:00:00 PM.