Health care costs are rising, and it seems like almost everyone is worried about it. It’s putting many employers in a tough situation, where they need to balance their bottom line and their employees’ well being. To attempt to control the rising cost of care for employers, they often try to shift more cost and responsibility to the employee. So how can companies continue to provide meaningful benefits to their employees? As employers shift costs, employees are struggling to pay for healthcare, and it could be impacting performance. The 2016 Aflac Workforces Report found some startling statistics about employee benefits:
- 65% of employees have less than $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket expenses for an unexpected accident or illness
- 25% have had trouble paying a medical bill due to high medical costs
- Employees who are satisfied with their benefits are less likely to have been distracted by a personal issue at work.
But employers are struggling too. They need to control costs while staying competitive in the market.
To balance these needs, companies are offering other “soft” benefits, such as generous paid leave, flexible work arrangements, and wellness benefits. In fact, the same Aflac survey reported that 54% of employers are offering some type of wellness benefit. This number is up from just 30% in 2012, and they expect that number to continue to increase.
A “Soft” Benefit that Pays
Many “soft” benefits help increase employee satisfaction, but they may not impact the risk that high out-of-pocket medical costs pose for many employees. But telemedicine is different. By diverting medical costs from expensive sites of care, like emergency rooms, a highly utilized telemedicine plan can actually reduce employee and employer healthcare costs.
But not all telemedicine plans are created equal. To be effective, the telemedicine benefit must have:
- A utilization rate above 30%
- No fee or co-pay to use the service
- An employer savings guarantee
A high utilization rate is the key to a successful telemedicine program. If employees are not using the service, neither the employer nor the employees are benefiting. But changing how people think about and use medical care is not easy. To get employees to use telemedicine instead of in-person visits, there can’t be any barriers to use.
Unfortunately, many telemedicine plans on the market are bundled with a major medical plan, which means there is a co-pay or fee to use. This may seem like a small issue, but it creates a disincentive for employees to use the service. These solutions often have utilization rates below 5%. But when your telemedicine solution offers all of the above, like TelaCare, you’ll get a benefit that’s great for everyone.
Visits to an urgent care or emergency room are costly and time-consuming. And many of these visits are not necessary. Telemedicine can diagnose and recommend treatments for many routine medical problems, quickly, easily, and cheaply. In fact, the American Medical Association states that telemedicine could replace 60-75% of doctor office visits and 40 to 65% of emergency room visits. That’s a lot of money and time saved!
Time for Telemedicine
Just as technology has changed the way people buy groceries and order on-demand transportation, technology is changing the way that people get medical care. In the next five to ten years, I predict that 80% of people will speak to a doctor on the phone prior to any in-person visit for non-emergency care.
Employers can be on the forefront of that change. As they look for ways to reduce their own costs while providing valuable benefits to their employees, telemedicine is the answer. One survey, the Towers Watson’s 2015 Healthcare Benefit Survey predicts that 80% of large employers will have telemedicine in their benefit packages by 2018. Will your company’s strategic benefits plan be on board with TelaCare?