Five Ways Construction Companies Can Lower Health Care Costs
By Michael McKenna
Many contractors grapple with the ongoing question of providing benefits, either voluntarily or in some cases as required by law. While offering health care undoubtedly improves company morale, many owners must also determine how to best serve their employees’ needs while fulfilling their obligations and keeping an eye on costs. However, budget-friendly health care benefits do exist. Below are five strategies contractors can incorporate that provide health care benefits affordably.
Telemedicine provides employees and their dependents with fast and convenient access to quality medical care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This benefit is a cost-effective alternative to non-emergent emergency room visits, urgent care clinic visits, or traveling to a scheduled appointment with a primary care physician; it can take place during and after normal business hours, from home, on a jobsite, or while traveling to job locations.
Offering telemedicine as a benefit reduces claim utilization and keeps overall medical costs down. In addition, employees are less likely to miss work due to a medical appointment, thereby augmenting the likelihood that construction deadlines will be met.
Independent Second Opinion
Researchers from Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine estimate that 12 million Americans a year (more than 5% of all patients) are misdiagnosed. This study also showed that obtaining a second opinion resulted in a change in diagnosis 14.8% of the time and a change in treatment 37.4% of the time. Yet, a 2013 Harris Interactive poll reported that only 19% of consumers access the benefit of a second medical opinion.
A second opinion service can help employees avoid misdiagnosis. Significant health care costs are also eliminated as it is realized what type of care is and is not needed. With this program, representatives conduct a telephone interview with the employee while the second opinion team works with the employee’s doctors to access and review medical records. This benefits the company by reducing the likelihood of missed work due to misdiagnosis or follow-up appointments to confirm a diagnosis. It also addresses the broader concern of medical mistakes being the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Physical Therapy Wellness Programs
Back injuries are a major culprit in workers’ comp claims. By offering a wellness clinic or on-site physical therapy wellness workshops to show workers how to prevent back injuries and manage back pain, the number of claims (and injured workers) can be lowered or even eliminated, which will offset the cost of offering this type of program and drive down overall health care costs.
Smoking Cessation Incentive
Since smoking is a major driver for health care claims, another way to drive down health care costs is by implementing a premium differential for employees who commit to quit smoking. Although the employer ends up paying more of the health premium for these employees, it is offering an incentive for employees to live a healthier lifestyle while keeping health care costs down. This is a great motivator for employees who may already want to quit smoking but need some extra help achieving this goal.
One size does not fit all when it comes to medical coverage, especially in the construction industry, where entry level can start at age 18 and workers can continue their careers through to retirement. A needs-based plan option provides employees several benefit designs with a variety of coverage and cost options. Offering more than one medical plan improves the ability to manage the budget and predictability of costs while empowering employees to choose a benefit design that meets their needs and instills a sense of control over choices.
All of these programs offer myriad benefits – in addition to keeping health care costs down, they also raise employee health and morale, leading to a more effective workforce. Given all of these positive outcomes, one could argue that a contractor can’t afford not to offer these benefits.
Michael McKenna is President/Owner of Comprehensive Benefit Administrators (www.cbacompanies.com), a company that combines traditional brokerage services with specialty services such as advocacy and claims administration. He can be reached at email@example.com.