Despite the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the government coverage options it offers, most employers still plan to provide health insurance as an employee benefit. That's because it's also a benefit to employers.
A recent survey of more than 200 Michigan-based businesses conducted by the American Society of Employers (ASE) and Priority Health found that 98 percent of organizations surveyed will offer a coverage option for the 2014 plan year. Slightly fewer (82 percent) intend to offer coverage in 2015.
The Benefit of BenefitsWhy are the numbers so high considering that health insurance is typically an employer's highest expense after payroll? Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents said that offering health coverage was "very important" to attract and retain a talented workforce. A healthier employee is also a more productive employee, with less absenteeism and lower costs to the employer overall.
While there is no comparable study for Wisconsin employers, the Michigan survey reflects national sentiment. And according to a Midwest Business Group on Health survey, most employers view the cost of offering health benefits as much as an investment as an expense.
Keeping Costs DownWhile employers see the value of insuring their employees, they still need to keep their expenditure low. They're reducing their costs by encouraging employees to be more responsible for their healthcare decisions in these three ways:
- More cost-sharing: According to a Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey, nearly one-third of employers are offering higher deductible plans, which cost them less. Higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, however, should be considered a short-term solution. In a competitive marketplace, they will not make you as attractive to employees as lower-cost coverage.
- Pushing preventive care: Making it easy and affordable for employees to get regular screenings, checkups and other preventive care can help keep overall healthcare expenses down and reduce absenteeism. About one-third of employers offer onsite clinics or medical services to make getting preventive care convenient, according to the National Association of Worksite Health Centers.
- Rewarding healthy habits: Incentive-based workplace wellness programs are a valuable tool in helping reduce healthcare expenses. The Challenger and Gray study found that 56 percent of companies are trying to contain costs this way. Offering financial rewards for completing health risk assessments and biometric testing, and reimbursing smoking cessation and fitness center costs can help employees take responsibility for improving their own health.