With COVID-19 making wellness a renewed priority for many people, employers may consider using the pandemic as an opportunity to reevaluate how they approach health benefits.
Developing and implementing a strategic, data-driven approach to health benefits is crucial, given medical care ranks as the second-largest expense (behind salaries) for employers. Plus, encouraging a healthier workforce is vital to reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, both of which sap productivity and may make an employer less competitive.
That’s why more employers are opting for an integrated approach to health benefits, seeking to connect the dots among medical, pharmacy, vision, hearing, dental and disability care. Combining medical and specialty plans may improve health outcomes and affordability, driven by improved identification and management of chronic conditions, increased engagement in clinical care programs and the use of data to create a simpler experience.
While employees are now using their 2021 benefits, employers in Michigan are making health benefit decisions for 2022. Here are five strategies to consider related to integration:
Support whole-person health: Many employees value specialty benefits, such as vision, dental, hearing and financial protection plans, and employers can offer them with little or no additional cost. In fact, a UnitedHealthcare survey found that 84% of employees said having vision and dental benefits is “important.” With growing evidence of a link between overall health and oral, eye and hearing health, and disability and absence care, including in connection to various chronic medical conditions, offering specialty benefits may help encourage whole-person health for employees.
Leverage big data and clinical insights: One of the advantages of an integrated approach is the ability to leverage big data. Employers with integrated benefits can better analyze and understand health data, providing an analytics-driven roadmap to implement clinical management and employee engagement programs.
Make the most of medications: Specialty medications are used by a small percentage of the population, but treatments are often costly. Using an integrated approach to managing specialty conditions may make it easier for employers to improve health outcomes and reduce costs with the use of care teams. Support teams, including health advocates, physicians, nurses and pharmacists, may be able to leverage integrated data systems to provide employees with clinical assistance and guidance.
Focus on behavioral health. COVID-19 is prompting many people to spend much more time at home, which may contribute to behavioral health issues, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. In fact, 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during COVID-19, potentially contributing to issues such as suicide or drug overdoses.
Adopting an integrated approach to medical and specialty benefits may help maximize the effectiveness of an employer’s health care dollars while encouraging the well-being of employees.