Voluntary benefits that improve financial wellness can boost the bottom line

People who are under financial stress are less productive employees, bringing down businesses’ bottom lines, studies show, but employers can help by offering education, tools and voluntary benefits. “In addition to securing online financial education resources, companies can take advantage of value-added programs and financial wellness platforms offered by their current benefit providers, as well as other non-traditional voluntary benefits, such as financial counseling services and employee purchase programs that address further aspects of financial wellness,” Elizabeth Halkos writes.

BenefitsPro.com (8/12)

Addressing Disparities in Pediatric Care

With its dense care network, California has the potential to improve healthcare access for publicly insured children. The state could improve access by providing incentives for providers to accept these patients. In contrast, states, such as Mississippi, would not generate the same improvement since access for privately insured children is also lacking, according to an analysis by Georgia Tech.

House Passes Medicare Advantage Bill


On June 17th, the House of Representatives passed The Strengthening Medicare Advantage through Innovation and Transparency for Seniors Act of 2015 (H.R. 2570. The bill would establish a demonstration project allowing Medicare Advantage plans to use Value-Based Insurance Design (V-BID). The concept comes from Univ. of Michigan research. Researchers found that reducing out-of-pocket costs for some high-value medical services for certain patients can improve health outcomes and reduce disparities. It may also slow the growth of health care costs. If the bill becomes law, it would allow Medicare Advantage plans to lower co-payments and coinsurance for beneficiaries, encouraging the use of high-value, evidence-based medical services to manage chronic conditions. It prevents plans from increasing beneficiary cost sharing on any service.

The legislation was originally introduced by U.S. Reps. Diane Black (R-TN), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The bipartisan companion bill, the Value-Based Insurance Design Seniors Copayment Reduction Act of 2015 (S.1396), was introduced to the Senate on May 20th by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Thune (R-SD). In addition to the Capitol Hill activity, V-BID was included in a recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Request for Information to Innovate Medicare. Numerous private and public payers have implemented V-BID programs.

AMA Seeks to Improve Mental Health Coverage

The American Medical Association (AMA) is calling on Medicaid and private health insurers to pay for physical and behavioral health care services provided on the same day. “Treating people with physical and behavioral health conditions can be two to three times higher than caring for those without co morbid conditions. Yet research shows that coordinated care management of mental and physical health conditions can greatly improve health outcomes and could save upwards of $48 billion annually in general health care costs,” said Mary Anne McCaffree, M.D.

The AMA is also encouraging state Medicaid programs to include payment for behavioral health care services in school settings in order to identify and treat behavioral health conditions as early as possible. “Less than half of the 43 million adults identified with a mental illness and the six million children identified as suffering from an emotional, behavioral, or developmental issue get treatment. A key barrier…is cost. If we don’t take the necessary steps to ensure that integrated physical and behavioral health care [are] provided as early as possible, the lack of comprehensive services will continue to have devastating consequences for these people and the health of our society,” she added

How to Improve Your Employee Benefit Plan

How to Improve Your Employee Benefit Plan
Just three factors are integral a successful employee benefit plan, according to a study by Navera and Met Life. They are: having the right mix of benefits, having more choice within a broader range of benefits, and having effective enrollment education and selection confidence. The study reveals the following:

  • Employees who have five or fewer benefits are less loyal and less likely to recommend the company as a great place to work.
  • Employees who have 11 or more benefits are more loyal and more likely to recommend the company as a great place to work.
  • The two main drivers of employee confidence in their benefit selection are having easy-to-understand benefit information and effective benefit communications.
  • Less than half of employees agree strongly that their company’s benefit communications educated them on benefits and helped them understand how much they would pay for services.

Navera CEO Steve Adams said, “It’s now time to take technology-enabled self-service benefit enrollment from theory to reality…Technology-enabled platforms deliver information in a way that is easy to navigate and available anytime…A portfolio approach to benefit selection replaces the traditional serial process of selecting benefits. In the serial approach, employees make their medical selections first, then dental, and then vision, then disability, then group life, and so on. Employees are required to make an independent purchase decision about each of these benefits. Alternatively, a portfolio approach enables employees and their families to see how the benefits they select work together to provide them with the most complete and cost-effective coverage.”

How a Network Can Improve the Health of Medicare Beneficiaries

Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol may achieve better health outcomes when using pharmacies that are part of performance-based networks, according to a study by SCAN Health Plan and Express Scripts. Phase I results demonstrated that, when compared to a national sample of retail pharmacies, the pharmacies in the Quality Network achieved 60% higher performance scores for reducing the use of high-risk medications among SCAN members, and 23% higher scores for improving compliance with diabetes treatment guidelines among SCAN members. When compared to a sample of non-SCAN members using the same Quality Network pharmacies, the Quality Network achieved 34% higher scores for high-risk medications and 8% higher scores for diabetes treatment among SCAN members.

Wellness Programs Improve the Work Environment

Eighty-seven percent of employees say wellness programs improved their work environment, according to a survey by Virgin Pulse in collaboration with Workforce Magazine. Eighty-eight percent say that having health and wellness programs makes them consider a company to be an employer of choice. Ninety-six percent participate in wellness programs to improve their own health, making improved health a bigger motivator than financial incentives. Despite these findings, 48% of employers don’t track increased engagement and 53% don’t measure improved productivity. Forty-three percent of employers aren’t planning to take advantage of wellness incentives offered as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The survey also reveals the following about employers:
• 52% offer services for mental health and depression management services in, which is a 14% increase over last year.
• 30% are not satisfied with measurement strategies, and many employers are not tracking key areas: 48% are not tracking enhanced engagement, and 53% don’t track improved productivity.

For more information, visit:http://connect.virginpulse.com/files/PulsePaper_BusinessHealthyEmployees2014.pdf

Last Updated 10/20/2021

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