With healthcare costs rising, it can be tempting for organizations to focus on price when evaluating benefits packages. However, reducing healthcare costs doesn’t have to involve cutting benefits completely.

Many employers re-negotiate insurance contracts annually to secure optimal plans and pricing. Beyond that, there are a few key strategies for managing and reducing claims and other healthcare costs.

Encourage Employees to Participate in Wellness Programs

Employees who participate in wellness programs can help reduce their US employer health care costs by taking a more proactive role in managing their health. However, it’s up to employers to provide them with accessible, helpful information that empowers them to do so. For example, telehealth appointments can effectively allow employees to meet with doctors without driving or waiting in line at a physical office.

Employers can also encourage participation in their wellness program by incentivizing employees who achieve certain health goals. Some examples of these incentives include gym membership discounts, cash rewards, and gift cards. Additionally, companies can host seminars to teach employees how to make better choices regarding eating healthy and exercising.

Employers can hold regular and consistent themed events such as Meal Prep Monday or Fit Friday to increase engagement in wellness programs. These events will help employees get into the habit of participating in wellness benefits and ensure they remember to do so. Additionally, it’s important to communicate with employees frequently throughout the year so that they know what is happening and how to participate.

Require Employees to Participate in Preventive Screenings

Health screenings are a key part of preventive care and help doctors catch disease in its early stages. This helps reduce the need for expensive treatments, medications, and surgeries. Additionally, it can help reduce insurance premiums by lowering risk factors.

However, many employees are not taking advantage of their health screening benefits. They are missing out on the opportunity to prevent or detect early-onset diseases, which can be a major driver of high costs.

Barriers to screening engagement include lack of convenient access and inconvenience. Offering onsite screenings or easy, online scheduling can help reduce barriers and increase participation rates.

Additionally, employers can offer additional health services to boost employee engagement, such as telehealth appointments. These convenient, virtual doctor visits can help employees avoid costly in-person appointments by allowing them to talk to a health professional independently and from the comfort of their home or office. These services can also help address common ailments like flu or cold symptoms, minor injuries, and skin issues. They can even assist with obtaining prescriptions and referrals.

Offer Telehealth Appointments

Whether they’re scheduling appointments during a lunch break or from home, patients can now make doctor’s visits more easily than ever. This convenience factor helps reduce no-show rates and makes employees more likely to schedule routine medical check-ups.

It saves employees time commuting to and from the office, which can add up quickly during a hectic workday. Many telehealth solutions offer built-in patient enrollment, scheduling, and billing features that streamline the virtual appointment booking process.

Finally, telehealth services are usually less costly than in-office visits and can help lower employee and employer health insurance claims costs. These savings can ultimately benefit the entire healthcare plan budget.

Most telehealth appointments are synchronous, meaning doctors and patients communicate live via video or over the phone. However, asynchronous telehealth services are also available. Either way, telehealth appointments are always covered by HRAs and other reimbursement health plans (like HSAs and FSAs) that reimburse expenses before a plan participant’s health insurance deductible is met. This is an especially valuable feature during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person visits could put employees at risk for exposure to infectious diseases.

Offer Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a great way to help employees save for medical expenses. When paired with an HSA-compatible high-deductible health plan (HDHP), HSAs can offer significant tax savings for both employers and employees. Employees can make pretax contributions to their accounts, and the funds in the account can be used to pay for eligible healthcare expenses without incurring a Medicare or Social Security tax penalty. Additionally, unlike flexible spending accounts (FSAs), the funds in an HSA don’t expire at the end of the year.

Most employers who offer HDHPs also offer an HSA-compatible group health insurance option. This helps them keep the monthly premium costs down and save on taxes for their employees while encouraging them to choose a lower-cost, higher-deductible medical plan that’s best for them. Proponents of HSAs say that combining a high-deductible medical plan and an HSA can encourage people to be more careful about spending their money and inject price and quality competition into the health care marketplace. If you’re a small business, consider offering an integrated health reimbursement account (HRA) as part of your benefit program.

Encourage Employees to Participate in Wellness Programs

Employers can offer various incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs. These incentives may include a percentage of health care premiums, free or discounted fitness gear, gift cards, and other merchandise. These incentives are most effective when offered as part of a comprehensive program and if the company ensures that all employees feel included in the effort.

In addition to incentives, companies can provide employees with tools and resources to help them make informed decisions during open enrollment. For example, offering telehealth appointments can help employees avoid costly emergency room visits. Another option is to provide educational materials and resources that show employees how to save money on their health care costs by shopping for the best deals, using online calculators, and negotiating with providers.

Another way to encourage participation is to promote team-based wellness activities. These activities can foster a sense of camaraderie and help employees bond outside of work, which can lead to improved communication and collaboration within the workplace. Lastly, allowing employees to walk, bike, or take public transportation to the office can promote physical fitness and reduce carbon footprints.

By Sambit