[Interview] Essential employee benefit trends you can’t afford to miss
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Adam Kroeger, a Client Executive at Truss LLC. Adam believes that by being strategic and consultative, he can provide solutions to his clients that are far from commodities that could easily be provided by an exchange system. His goal at Truss is to be the most transparent player in the field, and a key player on his clients’ benefits teams.
With this in mind, we asked him about the changes currently happening in healthcare, what to look for in finding a benefit expert, and how to best leverage telemedicine as a benefit. Adam was refreshingly honest and candid with his replies.
Q: With all the changes in healthcare, how should your clients best prepare themselves?
A: First of all, companies need an expert in the benefits field. It is a very complicated industry, so you definitely want an expert on your side. When picking that benefit advisor, you want someone who is not only thinking about how to manage large claims, but also how to get future renewals as low as possible well before they are received.
You need someone who is thinking about possible legislation and envisioning changes that can happen over the next five or ten years, and how to best prepare for that.
For example, it looks like although the Republican plan didn’t pass, but at some point there is going to some kind of legislation that increases the amount you can contribute to—and increases the flexibility of—an HSA plan. So an employer should be thinking about putting HSA plans in place to prepare for that. More than likely, it’s [HSA plans] going to become a bigger and bigger part of healthcare.
Secondly, they should be thinking about not only how to manage the large claims of a population, but how to manage the population of claimants who are developing chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure today. Preventing those people from becoming large claimants in the future by implementing different programs to help them manage their health will manage an employer’s future cost.
Q: How do strategic benefit programs impact a client’s success?
A: Part of our job is bringing new vendors to the table. The first thing a client typically thinks when we bring a vendor to the table is, “this is going to be an additional cost.” But we get beyond the cost of a vendor and look at the return on investment (ROI). A huge driver of the ROI is the ability of a vendor to increase the employee engagement.
Yesterday, for example, we recommended First Stop Health to a current client. Essentially, their ER cost was high because all of the men working for the company were using the ER like a primary care physician. The reason we recommend them over other telemedicine providers is that the results we have seen from First Stop Health speak for themselves in terms of their ability to increase employee engagement. They might be double the PEPM price of a competitor, but the ROI and the success we have seen with them justifies the additional upfront cost. The single biggest thing we look for is results or we won’t make the recommendation.
Q: While we’re on the topic of First Stop Health, what should people know that maybe they don’t think to ask?
A: Most of our clients have between 300 to 1500 employees and don’t always have a fully-staffed HR team that’s forward thinking and knowledgeable about how to manage claims. What they might not know about First Stop Health is how much of the burden of employee education and promotion of the telemedicine program they take away from the HR staff. So literally you can just sign the contract and you are kind of done from an HR standpoint. There’s no extra work for HR.
They need to consider how many roadblocks are in place for engaging with a company like Teladoc. There are two or three things an employee has to do before engaging with Teladoc, so you’re automatically writing off 3/4 of the population who don’t have the patience or foresight to do that. And typically, HR doesn’t have the time to promote telemedicine or put a plan in place to get people registered.
What I like about First Stop is there are no roadblocks beyond having the phone number in your phone or pocket.
Q: What role do you think telemedicine plays in benefits or insurance packages?
A: Obviously telemedicine can reduce claims, as we spoke about, but also that it’s a great employee retention tool. If as part of your benefits package you have 24-hour access to a board-certified doctor in your state who can prescribe in the middle of the night – and let’s say you are like me and you have little kids – that’s a great retention and recruiting tool.
Telemedicine plans like First Stop Health that let your dependents, who aren’t on the plan, use the service is a big deal, too. More and more, we are seeing lower employee cost—but higher dependent and spousal cost on health plans. If employees can’t afford to put their spouse and kids on the plan, they can at least utilize First Stop Health for the telemedicine service component. I think it’s a huge bonus for a much cheaper price than the health plan itself. And it contributes to improving culture, as well.
Q: How focused do you think employers are on improving culture, or just culture in general, as far as benefits are concerned?
A: It’s becoming a larger and larger topic, especially with the millennial generation. There are a lot of studies that show that people from 20-35 look at benefits as potentially more impactful than salary. I think people have a better understanding of how much benefits actually cost, so the more robust the benefit package, the more you are going to attract better and better employees.
Employers are trying to understand culture, because there is now a better understanding of what turnover and hiring and recruiting new employees really costs, The type of benefits offered speaks to company culture, which relates to management and the transparency of the company. Knowing that, employers are designing benefit programs to improve that culture. It’s being talked about a lot more than it was five years ago.