Suzanne Lucas

Keep Health Care Costs Down Regardless of Looming Legislation

More than half of small business owners identified health care costs as a “critical issue,” according to a report from the NFIB Research Foundation. And business owners are in an uneasy state because health laws could change at any time. Is there anything you can do to help keep health care costs under control, regardless of what goes down in Washington, D.C.? Yes. Here are four things that will make a difference:

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1. Wellness Programs

Many health insurance companies offer discounts to employees who participate in wellness programs. Whether it’s tracking your daily steps or making sure everyone gets an annual physical, getting a high percentage of your employees to participate can be a big cost saver for your company.

2. Integrated Benefits

When you’re looking for health care benefits, make sure they come from the same company. If your health, vision and dental insurance come from the same place, it can be less expensive than buying from three separate providers.

3. Gaps in Care Programs

Many Americans suffer from a chronic illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. The problem is that many people who have these conditions aren’t in compliance with the best practices. Do they have regular medical checkups? Do they take their medication as prescribed? Many people don’t, and as a result, end up with further complications from these serious conditions. Having a disease management or gap-in-care program can result in a 30 percent reduction in hospitalizations, according to a report from Rand Corporation. Hospitalizations are incredibly expensive and can send your health care costs skyrocketing, so a 30 percent decrease can be a huge cost savings.

4. Identify Your Employees’ Actual Needs

It’s tempting to keep the same plan year after year, as it’s less paperwork and less headache for the boss. But, if your team changed at all during the year, your company’s health care needs might have changed as well. If you’ve grown, shrunk or had significant turnover, or even if you have the exact same staff you’ve had for the past five years, everyone is now five years older and probably has different needs. Make sure your health care plan fits your current staff, not the staff you used to have.

Health care isn’t easy, and political uncertainty makes it worse, so keep these things in mind as you prepare for open enrollment this year — and speak with your insurance broker for additional guidance.

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she interviewed and hired employees, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. Her writings have appeared in Inc. Magazine, CBS MoneyWatch, US News, Readers Digest and other publications. She focuses on helping businesses nurture great employees and helping employees enjoy great careers.