Health Benefit Sponsors Focused on Compliance and Controlling Costs

Employers have introduced a number of tactics to control costs, and many are turning to consultants to help with compliance.

By Rebecca Moore | October 04, 2016
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There is high enrollment in employer-sponsored health plans, and the strategic importance of health care benefits as a recruitment and retention tool is alive and well, according to a survey from HANYS Benefit Services.

However, there are myriad challenges when it comes to offering and maintaining employee health care benefits. The 2016 Employee Benefits Survey found, on a scale of one to five, with one being the most important and five being the least important, controlling employee benefit costs had the highest rating average (1.71) cited by most (58%) of respondents as their number one strategic priority. Two other areas given significant importance include legislative and compliance regulations (3.75) and improving health and fitness of employees (3.90).

A number of tactics are being used or contemplated within the next two years to offset increased employee health insurance costs, several of which are almost equally prevalent. For example, the most popular tactic that respondents are implementing or plan to implement involves promoting health care consumerism (80%), followed closely by evaluating a disease management program (78%) and increasing the employee contribution (77%).

The pecking order differs slightly among respondents that are currently pursuing these solutions versus those that plan to do so over time. For example, most are now conducting a dependent eligibility audit (53%) or evaluating a disease management program (44%), whereas the leading implementation plans cited were promoting health care consumerism (40%) or increasing the employee contribution (38%).

The popularity of wellness programs certainly shows a direct correlation between the health and welfare of employees and cost of their care. If wellness helps reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and other serious conditions, then the hope is that it will result in fewer medical claims.

Most respondents said their organization offers a wellness program (74%), with a number of tactics used. And of that percentage, most offer financial incentives as a part of their wellness program (74%). The most popular methods included flu shots (87%), smoking cessation (79%), and a health risk assessment.

Among the financial incentives used, a reduction to the employee health care contribution (39%), wellness credit (28%) and contribution to a health savings account (13%) were top choices. In addition, several miscellaneous examples were cited. They include cash, a gift card, prizes, free medicine, or a contribution to a 403(b) retirement savings plan.

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