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Employer Healthcare Benefits and the ‘Great Resignation’

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs between April and June of this year, and that trend isn’t likely to end soon. A Microsoft survey found that 41 percent of people are considering making a similar move.

This mass exodus, referred to by many as the “Great Resignation,” came as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 74 percent of those surveyed by LinkedIn cited the pandemic as their reason for moving on. During the shutdown, people had a chance to really contemplate their current work situations. Stress and burnout were also contributing factors, but many workers appeared most concerned with their employer’s response to the coronavirus and the financial risks and ramifications (e.g., frozen merit increases, holds on promotions, potential layoffs).

None of this should be a surprise. Even under “normal” circumstances, people leave their employers for many of the same reasons. Burnout is the number one contributing factor, followed by lack of opportunities and low pay. People have also come to enjoy the flexibility of remote work. Returning to the office and working a set schedule is far less appealing, as evidenced by the prediction that freelancers could make up more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2027.

Employer healthcare benefits: a potential solution for the Great Resignation

Some industries have been harder hit by the Great Resignation than others. Leisure and hospitality are still struggling with attracting and retaining talented employees, losing more than 740,000 people in April alone. In the retail sector, nearly 650,000 people quit that same month. Nursing saw an 18.7 percent turnover rate in 2020.

Many businesses have responded by raising wages and offering hiring bonuses of up to $1,000, but financial incentives haven’t been enough. A Korn Ferry survey found that 94 percent of retailers can’t find talent to fill empty roles. Part of this could be due to the prospect of long hours spent in positions that involve interacting with the public, which still feels daunting and dangerous for many; the coronavirus still poses a severe threat to people’s health.

Another part of the equation is insufficient employer healthcare benefits packages. According to the 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Benefits Survey, just 50 percent of small businesses (fewer than 200 employees) offer health coverage to employees. And with more than 40 percent of the private workforce employed by such establishments, that’s a lot of people personally insured, underinsured, or uninsured. The Great Resignation is compounding the issue. More than 60 percent of the workforce receives health benefits through their employers. When someone leaves without another job, they lose their employer-sponsored health insurance and aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance, creating a gap in health insurance coverage between jobs.

The key to attracting and retaining talented employees could be as simple as offering employer healthcare benefits. It can be a huge differentiator by increasing job satisfaction, employee loyalty, and productivity.

Employer-sponsored health insurance options

Despite the benefits, finding room in the budget for employer-sponsored health insurance can be difficult for many small businesses. While deductibles and premiums may be on the rise, it is still worth the effort to explore your options. Many retail and services workers are now taking entry-level positions in offices and warehouses with lower wages because of the benefits, career development, and upward mobility they offer.

Here’s what to consider when building your employer healthcare benefits plan.

1. Supplement a high-deductible health plan with virtual primary care.

A complimentary virtual primary care plan can be a good supplement for businesses that cannot afford full employer-sponsored health insurance. Virtual care plans can reduce out-of-pocket costs associated with deductibles, copays, and prescriptions.

2. Include a health savings account with high-deductible plans.

Health savings accounts provide many advantages for employees. The funds are available to pay for medical expenses, which puts the individual in control of when and how to use the money. Want to pay a deductible? Go ahead. Need to refill a prescription? Feel free. But the contributions come out before taxes, lowering taxable income. Many plans also earn tax-free interest, and any unused funds can be rolled over for the next year.

3. Base premiums and deductibles on employee income.

Basing premiums and deductibles on employee income doesn’t always work for smaller businesses, as the difference in wages isn’t usually extreme. For midsize and larger employers, however, it can be a helpful tool in attracting and retaining talented employees. Perhaps pay 80 percent of premiums for workers making less than $60,000 a year while also offering lower annual deductibles.

4. Offer an independent virtual primary care plan when insurance isn’t an option.

Telehealth plans can help employees access the care they need. Look for comprehensive solutions like virtual primary care, which allow employees to see the same primary care physician regularly and manage chronic conditions with ongoing treatment plans. These plans also provide access to annual virtual wellness exams—including routine labs—as well as virtual urgent care and behavioral therapy.

The reasons people seek other employment opportunities will vary, even after the pandemic. Finding ways to address the most common causes of talent loss should help, but it’s also important to provide people with the perks and benefits they seek—one of which will always be employer-sponsored health insurance.

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2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends: What Employers Must Know [Podcast]

The tsunami of turmoil that started in 2020 has continued wreaking havoc in 2021. Over the past year, the accompanying stress and uncertainty have taken a toll on employees. As a result, those employees now expect their employers to step up and be supportive in ways unfamiliar to them. This demand has forced entire organizations to take a fresh look at 2021 workplace healthcare trends and re-evaluate their current wellness benefits.

How do employers keep up with those trends? What must they know to help employees better deal with physical and mental wellness issues?

Our Guest: Richa Gupta, Veteran HR Executive

Joining me on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is a well-respected HR executive, Richa Gupta. Richa has had a front-row seat as 2021 workplace healthcare trends have developed, so I have been looking forward to this critical conversation. First, I asked Richa how the pandemic has forced companies to shift their healthcare and wellness priorities this year. Her answer showcased three distinct elements of this worldwide conversation:

  • The different ways employees work today; how and where we get our work done
  • The evolution of leadership; specifically, how we lead our workforce out of the pandemic
  • Health and wellbeing strategies; how employers are helping care for employees

“Employers play a very vital role in employee health in 2021,” Richa said. “Specifically, given their extensive reach into the workforce, midsize and large employers play a critical leadership role in health advocacy.” 

“Employers are a trusted resource for healthcare, so they must realize they are at the core of today’s wellness issues.”

An Insider Look at Understanding 2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends

In large part because of the pandemic, Richa said the most significant workplace trend is that as the pandemic maintains its grip on the workplace and presents ongoing health and wellbeing challenges, many companies are changing their wellness-related priorities. And that starts with personalizing the benefits offered to employees.

“CHROs in particular need to more deeply understand their employee population. So they’re starting to ask questions that we didn’t before. How do we serve them differently? How do we cater to their specific healthcare and well-being needs?”

Richa added: “How we ensure a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have — and then catering to them by offering benefits in a very personalized way.”

I couldn’t agree more; the reality is one-size-fits-all healthcare plans just don’t work now. Maybe they never have.

I gained valuable insight from Richa during this conversation — and I know you will too. Enjoy the listen, then incorporate Richa’s sage advice into your company’s inevitable transformation.

To learn more about Richa and her work, connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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[#WorkTrends] Elder Caregiving: A Growing Employee Crisis

Many members of the 70 million-strong Baby Boomer generation are at prime caregiving age, and soon many will become care recipients themselves. While they will live longer than previous generations, they will also be fighting many battles with age-related health issues. And with hospital stays becoming shorter, this means many employees will soon be fighting a crisis new to them: in-home elder caregiving.

How can employers help their team members through this inevitable crisis? And why should they care?

Our Guest: Larry Nisenson from CareScout

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Larry Nisenson of Genworth U.S. Life Insurance Segment and CareScout® Caregiver Support Services joins us to discuss how employers can anticipate the growing need for eldercare. We jumped right into the conversation by learning just how extensive the eldercare crisis will become:

“There exists today, in just in the US, over 40 million unpaid family caregivers,” Larry said. “Over the next decade, we expect that number to balloon up to 80 million. As the US economy ages and more folks must pitch in to help parents and loved ones, there is a dramatic impact on the US economy and workplace productivity. That puts incredible pressure on folks like you and me trying to work and take care of those we care about.” 

Larry added that the situation often forces people to choose: “Do they take this burden on alone? Or so they can focus on work-life balance, or perhaps take care of younger family members, do they bring in help?”

This is where employers can step in and relieve some of this pressure.

Elder Caregiving: The Role of Employers

I asked Larry what employers can do to support the growing need for in-home caregivers. Larry’s response was both practical and insightful. Rather than assume what would help caregivers most, he says:

“We too often hear from employers: ‘The vast majority of my employees don’t need eldercare benefits.’” After demonstrating their employees soon will, Larry advised them: “First and foremost, survey your employees. Don’t assume you know. You’ve got to ask them what they need in terms of support!” Because caregiving is a unique, isolating incident, he adds there is another benefit to asking these questions:

“Caregivers need to know their employer is interested in helping.”

Once you have input from your employees, Larry says, consider offering employees an elder caregiving benefit: “Care advocacy benefits — where you call an 800 number, and they provide all of the advice, expertise that you need to make decisions for your elderly loved ones — is one of the hottest benefits out there.”

To learn more about how your company can help employees through the coming elder caregiving crisis, be sure to listen to my entire conversation with Larry. You, and your loved ones, will appreciate his expertise!

 

Have more questions about this topic? Find Larry on LinkedIn.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?

 

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How The Best Employers Will Support Employee Health in 2021

As 2021 begins, human resources professionals are well-positioned to consider the actions they can take this year to help employees stay healthy. Here are five excellent ways employers will support employee health in 2021…

1. Investigate Opportunities to Relieve Stress

Keeping stress levels down at work can go a long way in helping people stay healthy. Some of the go-to stress-relieving activities include having on-site yoga and meditation sessions. While those can be beneficial, experts clarify that such activities alone are not sufficient.

It’s time for an all-encompassing approach concerning managing organizational changes, ensuring employees have what they need to excel in their roles and that they can adequately handle their workloads. Such aspects can keep stress levels low without sacrificing output. As people feel less stressed, their productivity will often rise, too.

Creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable enough to admit feeling stressed is equally vital. For example, in a workplace where managers value high performance, people may worry that speaking up about feeling stressed due to their workload may lead to accusations that they are falling behind compared to colleagues.

2. Show Support During Mental Health Struggles

The COVID-19 pandemic called more attention to mental health struggles. Even for those who didn’t contract the virus, the worry and extra responsibilities associated with the global health threat caused additional burdens. Women bore the brunt of these societal issues.

A recent global Deloitte poll of working women showed that 39% noticed worsened mental health during the pandemic. Moreover, 75% said they experienced increased caregiving responsibilities, and a third reported a heavier general workload.

Regardless of a person’s gender and situation, employers should strive to stay sensitive to and aware of any possible mental health difficulties. They can support employees by modeling good self-care and encouraging workers to take breaks when overwhelmed, for example. Educating employees about the diversity and prevalence of mental health difficulties also helps decrease associated stigmas.

3. Help Employees Understand the Specifics of Their Health Coverage

Usually, people who receive health insurance through their employees either participate in traditionally fully insured or self-funded plans. Research shows that, of the approximately 150 million Americans who receive health insurance through employers, 61% do so through self-funded or partially self-funded plans. One of the main differences in the types is that self-funded plans involve paying the employer for coverage instead of a carrier.

Regardless of how an employee receives coverage, they may not understand the extent of associated benefits — especially newly available perks. During the pandemic, AXA Asia — part of a global insurance brand — expanded its free telehealth service to help approximately 6.5 million people. Some providers also have specialty content that helps people learn more about diagnoses, treatments, and preventive measures.

Human resources professionals should consider sending weekly tips about policy features or suggestions to help them get more out of the coverage. A company-wide email could be one effective option.

4. Cultivate a Workplace Wellness Culture

Many company decision-makers mistakenly believe that implementing a few minor changes is enough to create and maintain a workplace wellness culture. However, getting genuine, lasting results requires a more concentrated effort that relies on employee input.

Asking employees what they need and want will likely get better results than providing them with packaged, one-size-fits-all health solutions. For example, giving a gym membership to someone who’s intensely uncomfortable with the thought of exercising in public. Aske what they need, and you will probably get the desired results.

People responsible for improving or starting an employee wellness program should explore ways to reach people where they are, which means understanding that everyone has different goals and definitions of wellness.

5. Teach Employees to Avoid Health Scams

Learning to spot phishing scams is often part of workplace cybersecurity training. It’s indispensable now, since many scammers ramped up their efforts to take advantage of the unusual circumstances caused by COVID-19. Most people living through the pandemic have never dealt with something like this before. The associated uncertainty, coupled with the desire to stay well during these challenging times, makes some people more likely to fall for health-related scams.

In one recent example, cybercriminals created a fake version of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service website. It explained that people had to provide bank details for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. To make matters worse, many older and vulnerable people living in the United Kingdom can get vaccinated soon and were likely not surprised to get emailed details about applying for a vaccination date. Health authorities confirmed they would never ask for residents’ bank details, however.

Employers should consider how incorporating health scam awareness into employee education could boost wellness. Suppose a person gets their bank account depleted after falling for a scam. In that case, they could go through extraordinary anxiety, periods of depression, and difficulties in getting essential items.

Employee Health: Input Must Guide Changes

These five tips encourage employers to think about how they can help employees stay healthier in 2021. However, it’s ideal if employee feedback shapes change to existing wellness efforts or entirely new initiatives.

Once employers see what workers need, want, and are likely to participate in, they increase their likelihood of bringing meaningful and sustainable results to support employee health. Moreover, workers will see organizational leaders consider their values. When that happens, they feel heard and appreciated, positively impacting morale and overall participation rates.

Edu Carvalho

The Forgotten (Yet Costly) Employee Crisis: Elder Care

Figuratively speaking, the number of articles dedicated to discussing the COVID-caused childcare crisis could fill a school library. But little has been written regarding the other side of the generational spectrum: Elder care.

When it became evident the remote learning arrangements imposed at the tail end of the 2019-20 school year would continue well into the current one, the full weight of what this would mean for working parents was expressed in headlines across the country. The Associated Press reported on the distressingly common instance of mothers being forced from the workforce, for example. Meanwhile The Atlantic analyzed the rock-and-a-hard place scenario that parents deemed essential workers have regarding childcare – including the fact that 15 states lack free childcare options.

So, it is entirely logical that the most pressing caregiving topic would surround the struggles faced by employed parents. Whether those parents were working from home or not – attention would be paid to those balancing careers with child caregiving. However, this understandable emphasis on our children has diverted attention from a problem that was looming long before iPads became de facto classrooms: the challenges employees face providing care for elderly loved ones.

Comprehending the Employee Elder Care Crisis

Not surprisingly, the impact on elder caregivers has been profound. According to the Genworth Caring in COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Survey, 1 in 3 respondents unexpectedly became caregivers overnight. The average time investment was an onerous nine hours per week, a typical work shift, to provide care for an older and/or vulnerable loved one.

Many, of course, may have already been providing unpaid caregiving to a loved one, meaning the pandemic simply exacerbated an already time- and energy-consuming situation. Caregiving during COVID-19 can also be very emotionally taxing: 49% of those polled in the same survey felt more anxiety and 53% felt more stress due to the added emotional toll of COVID-19.

Fortunately, the COVID crisis may make some employers more aware of—and sympathetic to—their employees’ caregiving responsibilities. This awakening can’t come quickly enough: Research conducted before the COVID-19 crisis shows that many employers were unaware of their employees’ caregiving responsibilities. Seventy percent of employees reported having missed work due to caregiving duties. And, 32% of caregiving employees had voluntarily left a job during their career due to caregiving responsibilities. Further, companies face increased health care costs incurred by employers for employees with caregiving responsibilities exceeds $13 billion a year.

Despite all this, employer-sponsored caregiving resources are typically limited in scope. They often, for example, take the form of an employee assistance program (EAP) that may provide a limited range of services, such as referrals and access to potential providers via phone and/or online portal.

Bolstering Caregiver Work-Life Balance

The harsh reality is: COVID-19 has made the Employee Caregiving Crisis more urgent than ever. For their own sake, it is time for employers to forge pathways to relief. With 54% of caregivers juggling their caregiving responsibilities and a full- or part-time job, employers need to understand and meet the needs of their caregiving employees.

To help their caregiving employees – and their company – here are five tips for employers that can help elder caregivers thrive during these challenging times:

Communicate and Create a Culture of Collaboration

Seek a better understanding of everyone’s individual situations. It is impossible to understand the breadth or depth of employees’ caregiving responsibilities without an open, honest discussion about their challenges. It is also important for employers to initiate this dialogue. After all, employees may be hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons.

Enable Flexible Schedules to Strike a Better Balance

With new or added workloads, many employees may be juggling caregiving duties and work responsibilities. To help them find a balance their competing roles, offer flexible scheduling options. For example: Flexible work hours, the ability to work from home, etc.

Expect the Unexpected

Build in extra time for important projects, and set clear expectations around deadlines, team communication and client support. COVID-19 has given many employers crash courses in disruption adaptation. We can lean upon these lessons to improve business flexibility—without sacrificing overall job performances

Offer a Strong Support System

To ease their responsibilities, many elder caregivers are now looking for more support from their employers. An easy way to help is by providing guidance and personal support to those struggling. For example, share trusted links to information on support groups and related webinars. And post articles that provide solutions to caregiving problems. Self-care tools like wellness videos or meditation apps can be valuable. Also considered valuable: Financial planning classes offered by employers or third-party specialists.

Assess Your Policy Options

To adequately adapt to the workforce’s evolving caregiving needs, employers may want to reexamine company policies and benefits. With COVID-19 creating a new normal, and so they can focus on their work, employees may need benefits that can help them find care for their aging loved ones. Offering attractive benefits that meet employee caregiving needs can help set a company apart—a tool to help attract and retain top talent, lower absenteeism, increase productivity, and reduce turnover.

Easing the Burden Placed on Elder Care Providers

Just as important for many, such specialist-driven caregiving employee benefits allow employees to stop playing professional caregiving coordinator. For example, identifying and assessing provider options is a caregiving issue in which experience and specialization are highly advantageous. This specialty helps determine provider availability but while negotiating rates based on knowledge of typical care costs.

With specialist-driven caregiving benefits, employees no longer need mastermind a highly complex, multi-factor caregiving regimen.

COVID-19 has pushed employers toward a number of new norms. One of those should be taking better care of employee elder caregivers. And we can do that through increased employer awareness, systemic support, and customized benefit offerings.

Companies are currently repositioning themselves for optimal success now, and into the future. That makes this the perfect time to re-assess exactly what employees need to thrive within their very personal new normal, including employee benefits that cover the cost of elder care.

 

Jonathan Borba

Healthcare Spending 2021: Employee Education Key to Controlling Costs

What is navigation assistance? And how will it help employers control healthcare spending in 2021?

While 2020 has thrown human resources (HR) many curveballs, one fact remains constant: Employees need help navigating their benefits.

Poor healthcare consumerism influences the cost of healthcare for employers. It drains employee satisfaction, as well. When they don’t have the help they need to access high-quality, low-cost care, employees feel left out in the cold. Now more than ever, we owe employees our support.

Navigation assistance – guidance through the healthcare benefits maze – is an important way to provide that support. Employers also benefit: Providing the assistance lowers healthcare costs.

Healthcare Spending: The Value of Employee Education

For our recent 2021 State of the Benefits Experience Report, Healthjoy sent a survey to +9,000 HR professionals nationwide. Respondents reported using every imaginable benefits education tool, from benefits booklets to presentations and from healthcare fairs to portal websites. Yet they gave the success of their benefits education strategy an average score of just 3 out of 5.

I’m not surprised. At the moment, it’s almost impossible to judge the success of our education efforts. Plus, we know awareness is just one of the areas we have to consider. Still, indications are that our existing education strategies aren’t hitting the mark.

For example, our survey respondents reported employees didn’t know enough about their full EAP offering. As a result, even at this critical time for mental health, employees are missing out on the support they need. And only because they don’t understand, or can’t navigate, their benefits plan.

Ultimately, we won’t know if our efforts to improve employee education are successful until employees are asked to make tough decisions under pressure. That makes education a really tricky strategy to hang our hats on. To succeed, we must educate employees about the stakes involved with making smart healthcare decisions. We must also show up for them with assistance tools when they’re under pressure.

Navigation Assistance: Taking the Pressure Off HR

It’s clear that a lack of navigation assistance is also leaving HR to drown in employee questions.

Our Benefits Experience survey revealed that HR professionals spend an average of 9 hours per week answering employee questions. In the end, some reported spending 20, 30, or even 40 hours per week on this task alone.

They aren’t spending time on complicated billing questions or coding issues, either. The most common question – asked by nearly four out of 10 – was also the most basic (paraphrasing): “How do I find contact information when I have employee benefits questions and need support.”

In other words, employees had questions about… how to ask questions.

Another 38% ranked “understanding benefits coverage/cost” as the most common employee question.

From the amount of time we see HR spending on employee questions each week, we can clearly discern where their confusion is leading them. So, as we talk about transforming healthcare and benefits, we must focus on tools that quickly and efficiently provide answers.

The good news is we know the answer: A ben admin system with navigation and decision support. We also know this system takes the pressure off of HR; when made available to employees, HR spends far less time answering the most common questions.

Manage Healthcare Spending with Navigation Assistance

As Meghan M. Biro, CEO of TalentCulture, and I discussed in a recent episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, healthcare spending is a really complex issue. Costs in the US were already out of control due to factors like an aging population and the obesity epidemic. Then the pandemic added yet another layer of complexity. Because many employees are not fully using their benefits during the pandemic, healthcare costs might temporarily go down for employers next year. However, those delayed healthcare events will eventually occur – driving costs up again in the very near future.

For instance, by some estimates, 28 million elective surgeries were halted or delayed during the pandemic. These are exactly the types of non-emergent, predictable procedures employees need help navigating. Sure, they may be predictable. But if employees don’t carefully scrutinize every aspect of their scheduled procedures, they can easily lead to thousands in surprising medical bills.

And if the number of elective surgeries is doubled next year?

We’ll need to figure out a system by which employees can choose high-quality, cost-effective facilities and providers. We must put these solutions in place now, before they’re needed and before those elective surgeries are scheduled. That is the only way to save employees money and frustration – and to keep employers from engaging in unnecessary spending.

Managing What’s Within Our Control

When we talk about rising healthcare spending, there are many factors outside our control. Thankfully, provider, procedure, and prescription choice are within our control. So the question becomes: Are we willing to give employees the support they need to make the right decisions?

Our recent survey revealed the answer to this important question: Most employers don’t plan to add this type of navigation assistance to their benefits plans next year. Still, I remain hopeful that top-performing, high-growth companies that genuinely care about their employee’s experience will consider adding this benefit in very near the future.

We have a responsibility to take care of employees during the 364 days outside of open enrollment. Navigation assistance changes the way employees access, and then fully leverage their benefits.

Ultimately, navigation assistance improves the lives of your employees – every day of the year.

 

This post is sponsored by our friends at Healthjoy.

 

Edward Jenner

#WorkTrends: Transforming the Healthcare Benefits Experience

Now more than ever, employers feel a mandate to take good care of their people. And that responsibility is bigger than how best to empower a remote workforce. It is more complex than deciding the right time to bring them back on-site. Today, how we enable our employees to take care of themselves, and their loved ones, is a front and center issue.

You don’t want to miss a single episode of #WorkTrends… subscribe to the podcast now!

Are we providing the wellness benefits our employees need? Do they have access to the right providers? Is preventative care and testing available? How are employees making the decision on what plan to pick — and who is helping them make those decisions? And what kind of experience do we want our employees to have while choosing the right health plan, and providers, for them?

Healthcare Benefits: A Timely Conversation

This period just before open enrollment is not a great time for employees to be left without answers to these questions. So for this episode of @WorkTrends, I invited Justin Holland, CEO and Founder of Healthjoy, to shed some much-needed light on healthcare benefits.

In speaking with Justin, I learned how much healthcare has changed over the last few decades. I also discovered just how important it is to properly educate and enable employees before asking them to choose health benefits. “It’s really easy to run through an open enrollment presentation and forget about the impact of the decisions being made,” Justin said. “So our goal is to give employees the tools and framework they need to make the right decisions for them.”

Justin also confirmed how I have felt about open enrollment: That having a day or two to make major decisions just isn’t enough. “Open enrollment is obviously a very important time to educate employees on benefits. But there’s 364 other days a year they’re utilizing those benefits,” Justin said. “Our vision is that healthcare education be available at the right place at the right time. Because when a kid is sick at 2:00am and you’re going to the ER, chances are slim you’re going to remember what was said in that open enrollment meeting six months ago.”

Healthcare Education and Empowerment

Justin added: “Healthcare education and empowerment needs to be relevant during those touchpoints. At that moment, we’re all accountable — employee and employer, provider and platform — for the health and wellness of the family.”

During our conversation, Justin and I also talked about the rising cost of healthcare. We discussed how employers can provide healthcare benefits to freelancers and independent contractors. And we touched on how healthcare might look after the COVID-19 crisis is behind us. The timing of our conversation couldn’t be better. After all, chances are good your company is about to start an open enrollment period, or is considering a change to employee benefits for 2021. So please listen in!

Healthjoy sponsored this episode of #WorkTrends℠. And I’m so glad they did. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from our 20 minutes or so together. I did!

 

Find Justin on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: Have you heard about how #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats are changing to better meet your needs? For details check the new FAQ page. Also, to see upcoming event topics and guests, check the new calendar listing on the #WorkTrends Podcast page.

 

Healthcare Benefits are Broken. Fixing Them Requires Redefining the Industry.

Much attention has been paid to fixing our country’s broken healthcare system. But what often gets missed are the problems with employer-sponsored health benefits and the role they play within the broader healthcare crisis. Employers in North America alone are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to provide healthcare benefits to their teams. In fact, the current cost is estimated to be $15,000 per employee, with 49% of the U.S. population relying on employer-provided health benefits.

The current problems with healthcare benefits were exemplified in a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report for League. The report surveyed 238 executives about employee health benefits. The findings illustrate how companies and employees alike have fallen into a lose-lose cycle where healthcare costs keep rising while the experience — and even the benefits themselves — get worse. Employees are often left unsure and overwhelmed about what benefits they have, how to properly use them and which healthcare decisions to make. A dizzying number of benefits vendors and digital platforms make this more confusing than ever. Meanwhile, HR teams are spread thin trying to answer questions and guide employees.

So what’s the solution? One thing is for sure: it won’t be found in the status quo. For companies to reduce healthcare costs while also engaging employees, the entire ecosystem needs to fundamentally rethink the health benefits system. What’s needed is an entirely new category focused on an employee-centered health benefits experience.

When Lack of Awareness Leads to Lack of Engagement

The Harvard Business Review responses showed a stark lack of awareness among employees, which has larger implications for their long-term health. Sixty-three percent of respondents said employees don’t know enough about how to leverage their company-provided health benefits. Meanwhile, more than half (58%) of organizations reported that employees are unaware of the health benefits they are entitled to. This lack of awareness extends to the quality and cost of healthcare, as well as which plan is right for them.

The consequence of this lack of understanding shouldn’t be surprising: employees can’t use something if they’re unsure of its existence or don’t know how to. Just 28% of respondents said that employees actively engage with all of the health benefit programs they are offered. In fact, employees reportedly use the full range of health benefits at only a little over one-quarter (27%) of organizations.

These statistics become alarming when you consider that a large number of chronic illnesses are preventable. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of heart disease and stroke, 80% of type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes like healthier eating and moderate exercise. An employee-centered benefits platform, with personalized health profiles and journeys, could empower people to better manage their health, with dramatic potential to improve outcomes.

Burnout on Both Sides

There’s a more far-reaching impact of this lack of awareness and engagement: both employees and HR teams are overwhelmed and fatigued. Employees are often required to access multiple disparate systems in order to learn about and access their full range of health benefits. Only 10% of organizations reported that employees can use only one system to do this. At many organizations, employees need to use three, five or even more systems.

Employee confusion and frustration are being passed on to HR teams, whose time is being taken up answering routine questions from employees about coverage, out-of-pocket maximums and co-pays. In consequence, 41% of organizations report that HR doesn’t have the time or resources to perform more strategic activities, like benefits planning.

Rethinking the Benefits Experience

This holistic problem can only be solved by a solution that helps both employees and employers. It’s time to rethink the system in its entirety to focus on the overarching health benefits experience —not tools, or platforms, that cater to only parts of the ecosystem, but a centralized platform that can help you, no matter who you are or what you need, get the help and support you need from a benefits perspective. Companies from entertainment to retail have disrupted industries by focusing on personalized platforms that cater to a user’s unique needs for a better experience. Imagine the potential of recreating this model not to stream movies or order groceries, but to help people live healthier lives.

What employees need is a “front door” to their benefits. Instead of multiple accounts and platforms, employees should be able to access and learn about all of their benefits from a single source. Simplifying the source of information and engagement will help employees understand and use their benefits.

The benefits experience should also be completely separate from both the employer and the insurance company. Employees deserve a trusted, neutral place where they can get health advice and support. This environment will empower people to proactively manage their health and utilize their full range of benefits.

The good news is, there’s reason to be optimistic that companies are ready to demand a better experience for their employees. Our report found that the majority (68%) of organizations are open to changing their employee health care experience.

A better benefits platform is one that prioritizes engagement and supports employees in being better healthcare consumers. It’s one that ultimately helps employers break the higher cost/ worse experience cycle by driving benefit utilization and reducing costs. These changes are necessary to creating a health benefits system that works for everyone. For further insight into these findings, download “The Key to Better Health.”

 

This post is sponsored by League.

Diagnosing Today’s Healthcare Staffing Challenges

Healthcare systems like to think of themselves as different from other industries, and they are to a certain extent. The service they provide is diagnosis, care, and healing, they provide it 24x7x365, and they can do so in some of the most trying times—think natural disasters and epidemics. Healthcare is different, but a lot of the challenges in healthcare today are mirrored in other industries, i.e., shrinking margins, intense competition, and talent shortages.

It is estimated that between 9 million and 13 million more people will have health coverage through the federal and state insurance exchanges. While hard, reliable figures on the number of uninsured have been hard to pin down, the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey estimated that the number of uninsured has dropped by 2.3 million since 2013. More individuals with access to healthcare is coming at a time when currently 55% of the RN (nursing) workforce is age 50 or older.

So what does an organization do to ensure it has the staff to be prepared to handle increased volumes while working to cut expenses? The answer lies in a mix of strategies, technologies, and change management due diligence.

Forecasting Demand

There is a lot of talk about predictive modeling in healthcare. While most of the buzz is related to population health, predicting disease, and foreseeing the likelihood of readmissions, these applications are still in their infancy. The ability to predict patient volumes, however, is going on its second decade. Predicting future volumes relies on a number of inputs, including CDC and Google flu data, historical volume levels, and number of customized variables and input on anticipated events at the local level. This data is fed into a modeling engine and forecasts are generated. This data is essential to accurately solidify hiring targets.

The Right Numbers

Once an organization has developed an accurate volume forecast, it is capable of determining how many staff it actually needs to care for patients. In this process the provider organization must make sure every department has a good mix of middle-career, seasoned professionals, and new grads. Care staff fall into two categories: core or contingency.

  • Core staff are those who hold an ongoing FTE (full-time equivalency) commitment within a department. As an example, an RN who is full time (1.0 FTE, or 40 hours per week) in the ICU is a core staff member for the ICU.
  • All hours, other than those worked by core staff members within their FTE, are sources of contingency. This includes those who are in float pools (those who are deployed to work in various departments as need arise), agency and travelers, and core staff working in overtime.
  • Determining how many of each you need can be achieved with a deep dive into the analytics of the provider organization. For core staff, a fair amount of volume analysis is required to discover the right numbers on a unit-to-unit basis. The point is to hire the number of core staff needed to keep them working to their FTE without the need for excessive floating, overtime, or cancelled shifts.

    Finding the right numbers of contingency staff involves an analysis of core staff behaviors and trends (expected and unexpected time off, etc.), historical volume levels and acuity spikes, predicted future volume, staffing levels, payroll, and various HR information.

    A Shift In Care

    With the transition from volume to value reimbursement models, there has been a corresponding shift from inpatient care to outpatient. Because of this, much more emphasis is being placed on the operational components of medical groups. Many outpatient clinics have traditionally operated under fixed staffing models where the number of staff available to care for patients is based on the number of physicians working. In the most progressive organizations, the switch to variable staffing models has begun. Like the inpatient world, with a variable staffing model the number of staff is based on forecasted patient visits. As the demand on outpatient areas increases organizations may consider transitioning acute care staff to the clinic setting as well as deepening contingency resources so care staff can operate across the enterprise in a number of areas.

    The Staying Power Of Satisfaction

    Like any organization, healthcare providers want to have low turnover. This is especially the case with the fear of a talent shortage looming and the cost of recruiting and placing open positions, typically estimated between 1.1 to 1.6 times the annual salary for a registered nurse. With “staffing” consistently ranked as one of the top reasons for turnover, it makes sense for organizations to want to right-size staffing sources and develop balanced schedules based on forecasted demand. It is also imperative to implement strategies that reduce staff dissatisfiers, like floating, cancellations, and continual recruitment to pick up more shifts.

    About the Author: Jackie Larson is senior vice president at Avantas, a provider of labor management technology, services and strategies for the healthcare industry. At Avantas, Jackie has been the driving force in building out the Avantas client services and consultation teams into a world-class organization providing guidance and support to customers on a wide range of issues including workforce optimization, productivity, labor pool and incentives, system integration, resource management and business analytics.

    photo credit: DSC06097 via photopin (license)

    3 Ways To Future-Proof Your Career

    A realization that we haven’t made the smartest of career moves might have dawned on many of us when reading the news this week. Experts have predicted that 10 million British jobs — which equates to one in three roles — could be taken over by computers and robots.

    Whilst honing our skills to make sure we are indispensable in the workplace is still essential, it’s equally important to remember that we are competing against computers as well as people. If you want to make sure a robot couldn’t do your job in the future, it’s vital to future-proof your career now.

    Choose a Low-Risk Career

    It goes without saying that some jobs are more at risk of automation than others. The positions that are at the highest risk are those in the sectors of administration, sales, transportation, construction, mining, energy and production.

    When it comes to choosing a “safe” job, careers in healthcare have consistently proved to be among the most resilient. When the recession hit in 2008, healthcare jobs ranked among the most recession-proof careers. New research also lists the healthcare sector as one of the “safest” fields, along with computing, engineering, science, law, education and financial services.

    Create a Professional Online Profile

    You can’t argue with the facts. Ninety percent of employers are using social recruitment tools like LinkedIn to source talent and 78% of recruiters have hired through a social network. Having a fully developed online profile and an established network of contacts is a vital way of engaging with your industry. As well as keeping you alert to changes and new opportunities in your field, it’s a great way to get noticed by employers should it come to that in the future.

    Start creating a professional profile online by building up your online personal brand to strengthen your authority in your chosen career field and make sure that you look the part. Once your social media profiles have been perfected, learn how to network effectively on social media. Launching an online portfolio or blog to showcase your work, whether that’s website designs, articles on key trends in your field, or even just a presentation about you and your skills, can also be a good move.

    Adapt and Diversify to Survive

    You don’t need to go back to school and change your career completely. However, being willing to adapt and able to diversify is essential to future-proofing your career. A recent study from PwC, which explores the need for better alignment between talent and opportunity, cites the need for individuals to be willing to embrace change and apply their skills in new places.

    Take stock of your skills. Sixty-three percent of CEOs say availability of skills is their primary concern, so find areas where skills gaps are emerging in your sector and invest time in learning how to fill those gaps. You wouldn’t put all of your funds into one investment and the same rule applies here. When the time comes to make a change, you’ll have the skills in place to transfer roles. Adapt, diversify and survive.

    About the Author: Ron Stewart has worked in the recruitment industry for 30 years, having owned companies in the IT, Construction and Medical sectors. He runs the Jobs4Group, and is CEO of Jobs4Medical.

    photo credit: euzesio (seldom here) via photopin cc