Our entire nation is currently experiencing unprecedented and sudden drastic rises in healthcare premiums in recent years. Cost control and the bottom line have become more important than ever for every business owner and benefits coordinator. Smart businesses are implementing plans and strategies to lower group health insurance rates.
In this article, I will discuss what important steps business owners and benefits coordinators can do to ensure they’re doing everything possible to keep their insurance rates stable.
You may even find that you can lower future premiums for your group by utilizing the strategies I am about to share with you.
The smallest rate increase can mean very large losses for both employers and employees. In many cases, businesses have had to cease in offering benefits due to unaffordability.
These situations can be very unfortunate and tragic to all parties involved.
As discussed in our last article “7 Misconceptions About Group Health Insurance” businesses that suffer a loss of benefits are not going to be able to have many good job candidates seeking employment with them.
Let’s look at some of the strategies and tools that help stabilize your group’s insurance rates.
Promote Good Healthy Habits
Having your employees take more ownership and responsibility for their health is an absolute must for a healthy workforce. Not only will it ensure a healthy workforce it will help keep your group health insurance rates stable.
The best way to help protect your group rates, and gain possible long-term reduction in costs, is by improving the overall health choices of each and every member of the group.
Your business can be instrumental in helping your valued team members meet their personal health goals and making more intelligent life choices.
Doing so will give them a better quality of life for themselves, their families and your business goals.
Here are some great ideas and strategies that are currently being implemented and utilized by smart businesses.
These strategies and programs improve the health of their groups while shrinking negative claims that cause rates to rise.
- Turn your business facility into a tobacco-free campus.
Tobacco use is proven to cause a ton of health problems and issues.
Although we can’t tell people what to do outside of our property we can certainly maintain a “tobacco-free” environment in any and all facilities associated with the business.
Rates can be adversely affected by not having these rules in force.
Conversely, rates can be lowered by having these rules in place.
There is very sound reasoning why tobacco use can only cause future claims experience to be higher for groups.
Some groups have taken the drastic step of having tobacco and non-tobacco premiums to add further incentive to be tobacco free.
Maintaining a “tobacco-free” workplace can lower group health insurance rates for your company.
- Ensure every employee is participating in free wellness programs.
In the past, important health wellness screenings were not covered like they are today. By law, there are mandatory free health preventative treatments and screenings included in health insurance plans.
Finding a health issue such as cancer or heart disease in its early stages can make an enormous difference in unnecessary astronomical medical claims, not to mention the great possibility of prolonging life.
Many businesses have a relationship with local health providers to do in-house screenings at your place or places of business. They can administer vaccinations, give health screenings and even provide on-site health care if needed.
Many employers give a lower premium to employees who have shown to have met all suggested and covered health prevention screenings and tests, however, we highly recommend consulting an attorney to make sure it’s handled properly.
- Being physically fit and good eating habits are another way to improve one’s health.
Healthy choices at vending machines or food service help people to make smarter food choices.
Having a fitness room at the place business for employees and their families is becoming more common.
Many local gyms and fitness centers will readily help businesses with very good discounts for their employees. An on-site walking track is another great idea.
For example, some businesses are requiring that employees put in a minimum of 15 minutes, three times a week, even allowing employees to be on the clock while doing so.
Having healthier employees not only helps insurance premiums but will help them perform their jobs better for your business.
Educate Employees About Benefit Utilization
When it comes to health insurance knowledge is power. It can help your organization a money save money as well. Teaching employees how to utilize their benefits wisely will help a company’s bottom line in better claims experience while also improving the out of pocket health expenses of the employee.
Let’s look at key examples in areas that we can educate employees to help them and your company save on health costs.
Emergency Room Visits Drive Costs Up
Teach your people to avoid hospital emergency rooms. Although we understand it is sometimes absolutely necessary, E.R. visits are legendary for having outrageous prices. Even the simplest of visits can perhaps cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Unless its life or death, the first and most affordable option is physician offices which are open during normal business hours.
The second option available is urgent care facilities. These facilities are a lot less costly than emergency rooms. Some urgent care facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and many have extended late night and weekend hours to serve patients.
Making use of local clinics, physicians offices, and urgent care clinics over the emergency room help to lower your claims rates. Doing so can also lower group health insurance rates for your business.
Wise Use Of Prescription Drug Benefits Can Drive Costs Down
Prescription drugs can make up a very large percentage of claim payout. Unfortunately, we have seen how often physicians prescribe expensive medications without regard to cheaper alternatives.
Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars on advertising the most expensive drugs on the market for consumers to ask our physicians about. We need to do some research and ask questions of our providers about less expensive drugs that can work just as well.
Many times an expensive drug can be nothing more than a combination of two or more less expensive drugs in one but may cost ten times as much. Large pharmacy chains offer very low-cost drug lists with hundreds of medications for four or five dollars.These lists are free of charge and can be requested at the pharmacies or online.
I often advise people to bring a list with them and ask the doctor to make one of them work. Some provider offices will give samples, it doesn’t hurt to ask. There are pharmaceutical manufacturers that offer assistance with the cost of their drugs through discounts, coupons, or financial aid if needed.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers offer assistance with the cost of their drugs through discounts, coupons, or financial aid if needed. To see if you may qualify for these programs is as simple as visiting their websites and applying for the assistance.
Smoking Cessation Can Lower Your Group Rates
There are major medical insurance companies offering one-time free smoking cessation programs that employees can take advantage of, again free of charge including medication, patches and even counseling. Many state governments have such programs as well.
Raise awareness of these programs with your employees by having literature available.
Dental Benefits Can Drive Up or Lower Costs Depending on How They are Used
When it comes to dental care, patients would do well to shop dental procedure codes among a few different dentists. I have seen huge differences in price for the same exact procedure codes. Dental coverage is a sore spot many times for rate increases. Teaching employees to shop prices for dental services can help greatly.
If you want to learn more about why Dental Plans are beneficial and how oral care affects overall health check out our article on oral health.
How Gap Plans Can Lower Costs
Obviously, a plan with higher copays, coinsurance, and deductibles will be less expensive than so-called “Cadillac” plans. “Gap” insurance is used to cover the difference between provider charges and what insurance plans will actually pay for the service or care which was provided.
When discussing “Gap” coverage to ensure this difference it may seem vague, broad, and often misrepresented by insurance agents. This has led to employers not considering this option.
If understood and presented properly a real gap plan can work to lower premiums. Employees can decide to have a generous insurance plan or less expensive bare bones plan by choosing the extra expense of an offered gap plan or not.
Many times a gap plan along with a high deductible plan is much less expensive than a generous plan without a gap plan. The key is understanding exactly what the gap plan covers and what it doesn’t. Every group has unique wants and needs
An honest insurance broker can help you make the best decision for your group’s needs.
Self-Funded or Partially Self-Funded Insurance Options Can Lower Costs
If your company is large enough, self-funded or partially self-funding your benefits can be much less expensive than traditional privatized health care plans. This usually means having at least a couple of hundred relatively healthy people. Many smaller businesses can take advantage of partially self-funded plans to keep cost down.
HRA’s and HSA’s (Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Accounts) are often utilized to help rate stability. Considering the depth of information involved with HRA’s and HSA’s, I will save this topic for a more in-depth discussion soon.
In closing, don’t let your money go to waste by not doing everything you can to lower costs. We hope that this article has shown effective ways that you can achieve this. No one likes an increase in rates including insurance agents and brokers that want to keep your business happy and satisfied.
All of these ideas may not work for your company, but we are sure that many of them certainly will help realize lower expenses in the future.
If you are a Mississippi business that would like to lower your group health insurance benefits costs, find out we may be the best insurance company in Mississippi for your needs.