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How to help employees get the most out of their health plan benefits

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in News

In this article published Nov. 30, 2017 in the Sacramento Business Journal, Monica Majors, vice president of marketing and communications, health plan products, Sutter Health, shares thoughts on how employers can help employees maximize their health plan benefits.

While the rules governing health care coverage may continue to shift, there’s one thing everyone can agree on —healthy employees are good for business. They are more likely to stay focused on their jobs, use fewer sick days, and contribute to a more productive workforce. And most importantly, healthy employees enjoy a better quality of life.

By educating employees on the features and benefits of their health plan, employers can help employees and their families stay healthy and may reduce the overall cost of health care.

The following are four ways employers can help employees get the most out of their benefits.

Promote preventive care services

With most health plans, many preventive care services are offered at no additional out-of-pocket cost to members. This routine care can help identify a health concern at its earliest, and most treatable stage.

Common preventive care services include immunizations; well-woman exams; preventive services such as colonoscopies; routine tests and screenings such as cholesterol tests and diabetes screenings; and maternity and newborn care. Most health plans publish annual health maintenance guidelines with the latest information on immunization and screening recommendations.

Advertise wellness programs

Wellness programs vary from plan to plan, and may include smoking cessation, weight loss, health coaching, or disease management. Some health plans also offer digital wellness platforms with health risk assessment tools to help members analyze their health history and lifestyle behaviors, see personalized report cards, and develop action plans.  

Talk about alternative ways to access care

Not all health care needs to take place in a physician’s office or during regular business hours. Many health plans offer coverage for alternative care models such as walk-in care clinics, telemedicine, and virtual visits. Employees may also have access to a 24/7 nurse advice line or online tools to connect with their care team. If accessing care is made convenient, employees are more likely to take advantage of their health benefits and stay on top of their health.

Remind employees about Flexible Spending Accounts

While not a “benefit” of a health plan, many employees with health care coverage use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to pay for certain out-of-pocket costs. It’s especially important during this time of the year for employees to take a look at their FSAs —they typically need to use the funds before the end of the plan year as any money left over may be lost.

In addition to co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles, employees can use FSAs to pay for acupuncture and chiropractic care, contact lenses and solutions, dental services, prescription sunglasses (frames and lenses), and certain over-the-counter drugs. Employees can request a list of covered expenses from their FSA administrator.

These are just a few of the many ways employers can help employees get the most out of their benefits. Employers will find the most success from engaging employees year-round by using a variety of communications vehicles. This includes using e-newsletters, posters in common areas, intranet sites with links to program tools, health fairs and events, and social media channels.