Are your staff members struggling with finding the right responses to employee benefits questions? It can often feel as though there’s an overwhelming amount of information, and you may not know how to cull down to the details that can be shared with your staff. Creating a proactive approach to employee benefits starts with having a good relationship between HR departments and staff members, so employees feel comfortable coming to you with questions. Part of that happens because of the ongoing ability of human resources professionals to provide solid, trusted resources and responses to common questions. In this way, your team can truly become an advocate for your employees’ healthcare.
Rising Costs of Employee Benefits
The cost of employee benefits continues to rise, albeit not quite at the high level of increases in previous years. Part of this leveling off of the cost is due to the shifting mix of employee benefits that organizations are offering. However, the cost is still continued to be excessive, with healthcare cost estimates hovering around $15,000 per employee for many organizations. This comes as more organizations are offering a mix of telehealth options, high-deductible healthcare plans and other incentives for staff members to be more conscious of the way they are utilizing their benefits in an effort to keep the overall costs of healthcare from rising out of control. While this doesn’t feel like a massive increase, it’s important to note that healthcare costs are still rising at approximately two to three times the cost of annual wage increases and the general cost of living.
Helping Employees Make the Most of Their Benefits
When your staff members truly understand the value of their benefits and how the overall costs impact them personally, they are more able to make good decisions about their healthcare utilization. This starts with educational opportunities held throughout the year, not just during employee benefits enrollment periods. The issues around healthcare are complex, with a recent study showing that up to one-third of employees not truly understanding their healthcare benefits. Another third (33%) also do not understand their medical bills — a shocking percentage that is not expected to be reduced without a significant focus on education at all levels of the organization. Key to the overall dilemma is yet another statistic: over 60% of the employees surveyed did not feel as though their employer was a knowledgeable source of information about their healthcare benefits — leaving employees feeling adrift and unsure as they navigate through the complex world of managed healthcare.
Creating an Environment of Shared Responsibility
Providing this type of education for your staff members helps them gain a feeling of shared responsibility for their healthcare spending. This greater knowledge can result in reduced utilization of the plans for issues that could be handled in other ways. For example, employees might utilize a telemedicine approach for a simple sinus infection instead of taking time off of work, traveling to a doctor and investing in care with that model. The reduced costs of treatment help offsite the rising spend on healthcare in general — while the employee still receives an exceptional standard of care and is able to get back to work more quickly. Providing this more efficient model as an alternative and being sure that staff members are aware of the benefits both to the company and to themselves allows employees to become more active consumers of their healthcare dollars. By providing a higher level of education, human resources teams are equipping staff members to make the best possible decisions about their care without creating a negative impact on the employee.
Your employees look to you as an employee benefits advocate, which makes it extremely important that you and your team know where to go to get the best possible information to share. Want to learn more about how you can support your staff members with the best possible information? Contact the professionals at SMD today at 510-895-4800 to request your free initial consultation or for more information. You can always download our guide: 5 Ways to Improve Your Benefits Without Increasing Your Cost online for quick-hit ideas that you can begin implementing immediately.