Skyrocketing health care costs are in the news every night, and for business owners below the enterprise level, it might seem impossible to keep your costs reasonable while juggling all the other tasks on your plate. However, there are many things you can do to keep those costs from rising too quickly — and maybe even to cut some.
Here are five best practices to consider implementing:
1. Institute a Wellness Program
Wellness programs are popular for good reason: Ideally, they’re fun for employees and lead to money saved. In fact, the right workplace exercise programs can save you up to 20 percent in health care costs and reduce your sick leave by up to 6 percent, some research has shown. You can’t complain about those kinds of savings.
2. Educate Your Staff about Prevention
Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 200,000 people per year are hospitalized for the flu? That bit of knowledge might be enough to send someone running to their doctor or pharmacist for a flu shot. Not only does an employee who’s had a flu shot have a lower chance of getting sick and running up pricey health care bills, but you’ll also save money simply because of the fact that healthy employees are coming to work and remaining productive.
Another way you can educate your employees that could lead to widespread lower health care costs is teaching people when to use urgent care or make an appointment with their doctor rather than heading straight to the emergency room. Urgent-care clinics can handle a surprising number of health issues, and if there’s one available to your employees, it could save you a fortune: The average cost for an urgent-care visit is $155 compared to $1,200 for an ER visit.
3. Convenience Costs Less
There’s no question that going to the pharmacy to fill prescriptions is an unavoidable annoyance. Regardless of the long wait time, your sick employee needs that antibiotic today. But their daily heartburn medication or cholesterol pill? That can come through a mail-order pharmacy. They just have to go to the mailbox and pick it up, representing convenience and cost savings. Be sure to provide information on such a program.
4. Go Consumer-Driven
Did you know that, when at least 70 percent of your employees chose a consumer-driven health plan, your business saves an average of $8,466 per employee after four years? It’s true; do the math and see your savings stack up.
5. Audit Away
Auditing may be the most boring task on the planet, but a good audit can save you a lot of money. You may find out that you’re still covering an ex-wife, a parent and several spouses who have insurance through their own jobs. You will also find out if your plans meet your employees’ actual needs. Companies have different demographic makeups and, therefore, different needs, so make sure your plans match those needs.
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.