The abundance of job openings, combined with a scarcity of available workers, has created a serious talent crunch that continues to raise the bar on retention. It also has sparked lively discussions between employers and their advisers about pursuing innovative strategies to win the talent war.
The U.S. is in the midst of a historically tight labor market, according to data from the University of North Carolina. With nearly two job openings for every unemployed individual, today’s labor market is the tightest it’s been in decades. Many experts believe there are long-term trends driving this current environment, including an aging population, surge of early retirees and years of reduced immigration.
These long-term trends are unlikely to reverse anytime soon, causing many to believe the tight labor market is here to stay. There has also been a big change in the conditions employees expect from their employers. When these needs are not met, employees are not afraid to leave and pursue new opportunities.
As a result, benefit advisers have an opportunity to help their employer clients get more creative to boost retention. One approach is to offer employee healthcare benefits in innovative new packages that move the needle on employee wellbeing. Doing so has become an effective way for companies to differentiate themselves in today’s tight labor market. As an added benefit to employers, many of these programs can even save the company money in the long run by lowering healthcare costs.
As an employee benefits consultant focused on providing companies with benefits packages that raise employee satisfaction, here are three off-the-beaten-path employee benefits that I believe can achieve this key objective:
Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are employer-funded group health plans from which employees are reimbursed tax-free for qualified medical expenses up to a fixed dollar amount per year. For fully insured and self-funded employers alike, bolt-on HRAs also offer powerful data that leads to smarter healthcare decision making.
One example of marketplace innovation is Garner Health’s new approach to data science and novel financial incentives to identify the highest-quality providers, as well as help doctors improve how they practice medicine. This data allows patients to select doctors and surgeons who have the best track records and don’t over prescribe or treat patients with medications they don’t need.
When better choices are made across the healthcare continuum, it adds up to the best quality of care and outcomes – both financially and health-wise. This way, employees receive the most efficient and effective care while employers aren’t stuck paying for wasteful or unnecessary healthcare.
Provider Selection Navigation Resources
New technology is revolutionizing how employees make decisions about where and how to receive care. Innovative new provider selection navigation resources are capable of leveraging artificial intelligence that take in all health plan information, scan the web for providers and answer specific employee questions in seconds. In a health insurance marketplace where confusion, billing errors and limited transparency has become the norm, these tools give patients powerful information that can vastly improve their experience and ability to cut costs.
These tools also take much of the heavy lifting off of human resources teams that have traditionally been relied upon to field complicated, personalized questions from employees. This enables these professionals to focus on other tasks they’re better suited to perform, like retaining and recruiting talent.
Nurse Navigation Services
Consider a patient who has just received a cancer diagnosis, starts seeing specialists, and undergoes involved tests and treatments. They’re dealing with insurance issues like in- and out-of-network providers and denied claims. How these challenges are handled can be the difference of tens of thousands of dollars for plan sponsors, not to mention greatly affect the patient’s experience.
Nurse navigation services are a powerful tool to help direct care through the most efficient pathways that lead to faster recoveries and lower overall healthcare expenses. These nurses serve as the patient’s coordinator or advocate throughout the healthcare process. They help schedule appointments, interpret test results and handle insurance issues that may arise.
Nurse navigators also can significantly improve cost containment by ensuring patients receive the most efficient care and eliminate unnecessary treatments, prescriptions and appointments. They also reduce stress for employees and provide another medical resource to help coordinate care. Our preferred nurse navigation provider had a third-party audit their interaction for a large health fund and the ROI was 4:1.
In today’s competitive labor market, businesses must pull out all the stops to retain their top talent. Employees are demanding more than a fair salary; they also want work-life flexibility and, more importantly, employee benefits that transcend table stakes. Employers looking to implement off-the-beaten-path healthcare benefits packages should first engage their insurance broker before deciding what to do. Knowledgeable and experienced brokers have the industry connections and wherewithal to help their clients get started. When implemented properly, these benefits can even save employers money in reduced healthcare costs over the long run.
Vice President, Sales & Voluntary Benefits Consultant