What Does Low Employee Participation in Benefits Cost Employers?
February 2, 2016
You worked hard with your clients to develop strategic benefits plans that took into consideration both their needs and their company culture. This wasn’t a simple process with the current state of healthcare and its rising costs. Insurance costs are up nearly 70% in the past 10 years, and it’s no easy task to be a broker these days.
You want to see the fruits of your labor by seeing the employees use the benefits to not only make their lives better, but drive savings for your clients. Without high utilization, your clients won’t reach the ROI that their benefits have the potential to create.
Low employee participation in health and wellness benefits drags on a company’s bottom line. It prevents the benefits from driving the increased savings they were meant to. In short: low utilization rates are the thorn in our sides as brokers.
If some employee health benefits aren't driving utilization, your clients will not be happy. You want to be able to show them how much money they're saving on great benefits––and which ones they should re-evaluate due to low utilization.
Identify Low Utilization Benefits
I once subscribed to a magazine, then promptly moved to a new house. I didn’t notice the small yearly charge on my credit card, but that magazine never made it to my new home. I was paying for something I never actually used –– for years. What a bummer.
Imagine if that one subscription caused your healthcare costs to balloon. Your clients probably have a few ancillary benefits that only a few employees are using. But because they haven’t taken the time to identify and eliminate those draining benefits, your client doesn’t realize how much money they are spending for such little actual benefit!
For example, it seems participation in their wellness program is only strong at the beginning of the year. But after a few months, it drops off. It’s barely mentioned in new staff onboarding, and there’s no real conversation in the office encouraging employees to check it out or keep at it. What could their company healthcare ROI look like if they opted for a high utilization benefit, like telemedicine?
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) were a similar story. They had low PEPMs, but the service was really just calling a counselor. It wasn’t actually useful to employees in getting diagnoses or help over the phone for the problems in their lives. The focus of EAP companies was never on promotion and increasing utilization, so it didn't return on the investment. It could easily be replaced by something like telemedicine, which drives savings for both the employee and the employer.
Start Driving Utilization
Simply put: Low utilization is costing your employers a lot of money each year. A benefit that is only used a few times a year doesn’t give the company, or employees, any value. So by driving utilization, you can drive value.
Employees also won’t see the value to them in the benefit if it’s not something they are all talking about and appreciating. They won’t see it as the appealing, time-saving, money-saving benefit it could really be if they never make the transition to using it.
Action item: Choose benefits that can prove a strong ROI and provide an effective engagement strategy. Onboarding, education, awareness, and reinforcement should drive your benefits cycle to create positive return year after year.
Calculate Your Savings
Here’s how you show value to your clients: with dollars and cents. In employee health benefits like telemedicine, you can draw a straight line between calls and savings. One call = one avoided E.R. visit. Each avoided E.R. visit is worth almost $1,400 and four hours of the employee’s time. Your client will see these numbers add up quickly, especially during winter months when colds and the flu runs rampant in the office.
But the call to a telemedicine physician costs $0 for the employee and takes less than five minutes. You should emphasize with your clients that they should save as much (or more) money in avoided healthcare claims each year as it costs to provide a telemedicine benefit.
However, if your client buys a low utilization telemedicine benefit (even if it has a low PEPM), they’re really losing money over and over with each call. These telemedicine companies have an average of -72% ROI, while First Stop Health's is 27% direct ROI.
As a broker, you become more valuable to your clients if you can help them save money––especially with healthcare industry costs rising as quickly as they are. Identify which ancillary employee health benefits are not driving savings for your clients. Help them calculate direct savings of potential benefits, like telemedicine.