Non-technical staffing company Randstad US reports that 79% of employers offer casual, business casual or no dress code at all. Even investment bank Goldman Sachs has reportedly relaxed its dress code in response to the changing nature of workplaces. While most employers are considering increased flexibility to be a welcome benefit, many employees appreciate being able to save money on their wardrobe and related expenses such as dry cleaning.
While the National Business Group on Health has forecasted a 5% increase in the cost of healthcare benefits, others are expecting employers to dedicate more resources to health and wellness. More emphasis will also be placed on the use of digital tools to identify lower cost providers and boost employee engagement. Experts say the trend is in response to more and more employees looking to their employers to help them better manage their personal health.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced new proposals from the administration that would allow Americans to pay less for high-priced prescription drugs. One enables drug manufacturers to negotiate new contracts to sell lower-priced foreign versions of certain biologics. The other would enable states, wholesalers and pharmacists to import certain FDA-approved drugs from Canada. The proposals are in line with the President’s pledge to lower prescription drug costs for Americans.
The Binary Foundation reports that more than half of surveyed adults have used social media networks to search for healthcare providers – a six-fold increase since 2017. More important, 75% of respondents were influenced by online ratings and reviews, with many calling these reviews somewhat or very reliable. Only 9 percent said they do not use online platforms when selecting a provider, compared to 48% in 2017.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projecting that 83 million people will soon have three or more chronic diseases, the number of employers working to manage chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease is staggering.
Not only do the average medical costs for a diabetic exceed $16,000 per year, but the loss of productivity is estimated to add an additional $1,700. How can your health plan cope?
Begin with Good Information
Reviewing claims data, diagnostic tests and prescription drug data is a critical starting point. Once plan members with chronic illnesses are identified, care managers, nurse navigators or health coaches can talk with them to learn about their lifestyle, ask about medications, nutrition, their family situation and other factors that may be impacting their condition.
Chronic disease management is not a one-step process. It involves partnering with a member’s physician and other professionals to understand the patient’s needs and develop a personalized care plan. This level of personal involvement will not only help the member receive the care they need but also help them better understand how to use their health plan to their benefit.
Experience shows that 80% of a company’s healthcare spend is often attributed to 20% of plan members. Chronic illness is likely the reason, making disease management a critical part of high-quality healthcare plans.
The sensitive nature of information shared with payers and providers makes health plan members prime targets for identify theft. While no legislation is currently moving through Congress, a number of senators are taking steps to learn more about recent breaches of healthcare data involving collection agencies and diagnostics firms.
While some employers are taking very costly measures to protect their business and their employees, there are a few steps employers can implement at little or no cost:
- Encourage everyone to use strong passwords and change them often.
- Consider adding an Identify Theft protection service to your benefits package. Lifelock and Identity Guard are two common options.
- Offer educational sessions or webinars to build awareness to the cyber threats that exist today.
On-going education is critically important because the constant use of technology has made too many of us numb to the serious nature of cyber threats. As prevention measures have evolved over time, so have the ways hackers and cyber criminals go about attacking organizations and individuals.
A study based on several years of data, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics,showed that increasing water consumption by one to three cups a day decreased total calorie intake by between 68 and 205 calories. Intake of sugar and cholesterol were also reduced as a result of drinking more water.
Some physicians believe that drinking more water before sitting down for breakfast, lunch or dinner will curb the appetite. With other benefits such as better brain function, improved digestion and the ability to maintain energy levels, the old adage of drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day just may be more appropriate then ever.
Some mega-employers manage clinics on their own while others outsource to clinic vendors or healthcare systems. Many provide clinics within their own facilities, but some offer near-site locations and even share a near-site clinic with other companies. Regardless of which model is preferred, more organizations with 5,000 or more employees are deciding that on-site or near-site clinics can make primary care more convenient and affordable for everyone.
Some of these clinics offer pharmacy services and many have expanded to offer services such as physical therapy, telehealth and even behavioral health. One benefit that clinic operators often emphasize is that by making primary care convenient to employees, and in many cases their family members, fewer employees will neglect primary care because of cost or the inability to take time off to see a doctor.
A recent article described a high school student who was inspired to attend a local community college for two years before transferring to a 4-year state university rather than attending the state university immediately after graduation. His decision resulted from taking a financial literacy class at his high school, which made him realize that his original plan would leave him with significant student loans and a much tougher road ahead. The Council for Economic Education reports that 19 states currently require that high school students study financial literacy in order to graduate. A growing number of companies are also offering these classes in order to help workers get a handle on their finances.
A recent announcement stated that by year end, Walmart will triple the number of employees taking advantage of company-provided tuition benefits. With 25,000 high school students among their 1.3 million U.S. employees, the company expects to help many avoid the hefty cost of higher education. Disney, Discover and MGM Resorts International are just a few large employers offering free tuition for college or certificate programs in order to attract talented young people.