How Employers Can Keep This Year’s Higher Deductibles From Backfiring

January 21, 2015

Will Rumsey

That’s right, higher deductibles can backfire on employers. High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) can save employers money by limiting healthcare premium increases, but the increased burden on employees’ wallets often leads employees to avoiding or delaying treatment.

Many employers implemented HDHP policies at the beginning of the year that significantly raised the deductibles their employees pay. Why is this a worrisome trend to employees? According to the 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report, here’s what employees said about their ability to cover part of the cost of medical treatments, especially those involving a major accident or surgical procedure:

  • 53% would borrow from their 401(k)s and/or use a credit card to cover the costs;
  • 49% have less than $1,000 on hand to cover out-of-pocket expenses;
  • 10% say high medical costs have affected their credit scores; and
  • 13% have been contacted by a collection agency about outstanding medical bills.

Employees are just starting to experience the sticker shock causing them to skip care they need. Without treatment, minor, relatively inexpensive health problems often become bigger, much more costly illnesses. 

Organizations can avoid the backfire by providing employees unlimited, 24/7/365 online and phone access to doctors through telemedicine. According to a report from the Healthcare Performance Management Institute in 2013, doctors can resolve 70% of health problems over the phone and keep those problems from getting worse.

But not all telemedicine services have the same impact on a company’s bottom line. To get the most bang for their buck, organizations should choose a telemedicine solution that:

  • costs employees nothing, no matter how many times they call (so employees won’t hesitate to use it; 
  • provides unlimited calls for a flat, per-employee, per-month fee (so employers won’t hesitate to encourage utilization); 
  • implements a year-round customized employee engagement campaign to promote utilization (at no extra charge to the employer); and
  • offers a guarantee on savings.

First Stop Health meets all of the above criteria. In fact, First Stop Health guarantees employers that the solution will save more from avoided in-person care fees than the investment in our service, ensuring telemedicine is at least a cost-neutral strategy. What's just as important for many employers is that it improves employee health, morale, and “presenteeism.”

Telemedicine is a benefit that employers can roll out at any time of year, even if it’s not part of an open enrollment period. The savings start immediately--as soon as an employee talks to a doctor from First Stop Health. Our average utilization rate is 49%, and that’s 7 to 10 times better than the industry average for telemedicine providers.

Originally published Jan 21, 2015 5:39:00 PM.