More than ever before, people are paying close attention to healthcare costs and coverage. Dissatisfaction runs deep — both for the employers who are paying, per employee, more than $20,000 for family coverage, and for the employees who often have to pay high deductibles and copays on top of that.

In a situation like this, employers and recruiters have to get especially creative – and by “creative,” we don’t mean writing particularly upbeat and intriguing job descriptions, nor do we mean touting flashy things like workplace wellness programs. We mean changing the way the business handles health benefits.

Health benefits are so much more than something employers have to purchase to “check the box,” so to speak. Health benefits aren’t a burden, but a tool business leaders can leverage to attract and retain employees.

If employers can fix the shared healthcare cost issue, and if recruiters emphasize this fact when talking to prospective employees, everyone stands to gain. We know that from personal experience here at Great Lakes Auto Network (GLAN): We saved $2.2 million in the past six years, used that savings to offer employees even more unique benefits (like a premium-free healthcare “holiday” month), and even expanded our business from three dealerships to seven.

Switch to a Self-Funded Plan

How was GLAN able to achieve all of this? It started with finding the right benefits advisor. In GLAN’s case, that was someone transparent who was willing to disclose any commissions or bonuses they received from particular carriers. This ensured the business’s best interests were always put before the broker’s own financial desires.

Ideally, your advisor should also be familiar with the core components of the open-source Health Rosetta, a self-described “blueprint for 21st-century benefits.” These components play a key role in producing long-term savings once an employer switches from a fully insured plan to a self-funded plan.

A fully insured plan is the status-quo plan an employer purchases from a traditional insurance carrier. The carrier “pays” for the employees’ medical expenses, and the employer takes a very hands-off role in the arrangement.

By comparison, a self-insured plan is one in which the business has a greater stake in its employees’ day-to-day health needs. In the absence of a traditional insurance carrier (and the associated fees), employers are able to put the full amount they’ve set aside for health benefits toward employees’ actual healthcare costs. They are able to protect themselves against large claims using stop-loss insurance. They are able to hire career-independent third-party administrators (TPAs) to handle the administrative workload. Because employers are the ones in control, they have the power to make thoughtful decisions about the kinds of services they’ll cover and from whom their employees will receive care.

The best way for employers to use that power is by working with benefits advisors to connect beneficiaries to high-quality, low-cost physicians and nurse navigators who can help employees make smart healthcare decisions. Taking this approach, in year one, GLAN was able to get its monthly per-employee family coverage cost of $1,400/month down to only $800.

Identify Your Benefit Champions

At first glance, the idea of implementing changes to a healthcare plan may cause organizational leaders to feel a bit apprehensive. “Everyone wants change without actually having to change,” as the mantra goes. As with any change management initiative, however, revamping your healthcare plan requires shifting mental models across the organization.

Proper communication is key: Company leaders need to communicate to employees and their families all the ways healthcare affects their financial well-being and patient outcomes — and how a new healthcare plan can help. Toward that end, leaders should form an internal healthcare committee comprised of “benefit champions” who understand that a new way of doing healthcare can deliver higher-quality patient outcomes at a lower long-term price overall.

Your benefit champions should be people who are on the workroom floors, at the water cooler, and in the lunch room daily. They may be managers, union leaders, or HR representatives. They should spend time directly with the benefit consultants learning more about the healthcare plan, its outcomes, and cost drivers. Their role is to serve as informed advocates who can get buy-in from the rest of the staff to support full-scale adoption of a new high-performance health plan.

The good news is getting that buy-in shouldn’t be too hard. When a health plan offers strong providers, transparency, and guidance to help employees make good decisions for their families, employees will feel cared for and supported. That kind of plan is hard to turn down.

It’s also hard to turn down a job offer that comes with that kind of plan. Given how difficult it is to attract and retain talent right now, health benefits can be a key differentiator for your organization. Now, employers, is the time to try it out and see for yourself.

Joey Huang is co-owner of the Great Lakes Auto Network. Bryce Heinbaugh, MBA, is a Health Rosetta-certified benefits advisor and managing partner at IEN Risk Management Consultants.

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