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Employers Focus on Cost Containment, Mental Health and Telemedicine

A new survey has found that managing health care costs and expanding mental health benefits will be a top priority for U.S. employers as they ramp up benefits to compete for talent in the tight job market spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, virtual care is expected to become an essential and long-lasting feature of employers’ health insurance and employee benefits strategies over the next few years, according to the “2022 Emerging Trends in Healthcare Survey” by Wills Towers Watson.

The focus on health care and insurance costs, mental health and expanded telehealth comes as employers continue pulling out all the stops to compete in a tight job market but face health care inflation headwinds.

Here’s the direction many employers are going, according to the survey.

Dealing with rising costs

In light of continuing rising health insurance costs, 94% of employers surveyed said they are redoubling their efforts to make benefits more affordable for their workers.

Nearly two-thirds of employers (64%) said they will take steps to address employee health care affordability over the next two years. Steps they are considering include:

  • Improving quality and outcomes to lower overall cost.
  • Adding or enhancing low- or no-cost coverage for certain benefits.
  • Making changes to their employees’ out-of-pocket costs.
  • Increasing the amount they contribute towards their employees’ health insurance premium.

Employers also felt that many of their employees were not getting the most out of their benefits and needed further education on all of their offerings. More than half (54%) said that lack of employee awareness about where to find programs to support their needs was a significant challenge.

Mental health

Eighty-seven percent of employers said that enhancing mental health benefits will be a priority for them.

That’s in response to numerous studies and reports indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a mental health crisis.

Another poll — the “Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health” report — by Headspace Health illustrates the depths of the problem:

  • 83% of CEOs and 70% of employees report missing at least one day of work because of stress, burnout and mental health challenges.
  • Only 28% of employees report feeling “very engaged” in their work.
  • Top global stressors for employees are COVID-19; burnout because of increased workload or lack of staff; poor work-life balance; and poor management and leadership.
  • 40% of women and 33% of men surveyed said they feel burned out at work.
  • Remote workers are feeling increasingly isolated.

In response to this, 66% of employers surveyed by Willis Towers Watson said that ensuring that their health and well-being programs support remote workers will be a key priority of their strategy over the next two years. More than six in 10 employers plan to enhance programs and well-being activities to focus on health issues of their employees’ family members.

Virtual care

Use of virtual care — or telemedicine — has exploded during the pandemic, particularly in 2020 and 2021, when many people were afraid to go to the doctor in person for fear of contracting COVID-19.

Additionally, many health care providers pushed virtual care to avoid having too many people come to medical facilities that were burdened by an avalanche of patients.

Congress passed laws allowing health insurers to cover telemedicine as they would other visits to a doctor. And now telemedicine is poised to be a permanent fixture of employers’ health care strategies.

Willis Towers Watson found that by the end of 2023:

  • 95% of employers expect to offer virtual care for medical and behavioral health issues,
  • 61% of employers expect to offer lower cost-sharing for virtual care,
  • 53% of employers expect the expansion of telemedicine to help decrease costs in the long run, and
  • 50% believe virtual care will improve health outcomes for their employees.

Fortunately for employers, a number of companies have cropped up during the last few years that focus on delivering state-of-the art telemedicine platforms.

The takeaway

The pandemic has spurred many employers to prioritize their employees’ well-being, as well as look for ways to manage costs.

With competition for employees fierce, many employers are focused on reducing their staff’s share of costs, while also expanding mental health services in response to growing demand.

Meanwhile, telemedicine services are still evolving, a trend that’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future as health care providers, insurers and employers see it as a way to rein in some costs.

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IRS Sets Health Savings Account Maximums for 2023

The IRS has announced significantly higher health savings account contribution limits for 2023, with the amount increasing more than 5% for individual HSA plans.

The new limits were announced in conjunction with other changes, such as increases in the minimum deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses for high-deductible health plans (HDHPs).

The IRS also announced rises in the maximum contribution amounts to excepted-benefit health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

The increases are much larger than usual due to inflation, which has been trending higher than it has in more than four decades.

Here are the new figures for 2023:

HSA annual contribution limit

  • Individual plan: $3,850, up from $3,650 in 2022
  • Family plan: $7,750, up from $7,300 in 2022

HDHP minimum annual deductible

  • Individual plan: $1,500, up from $1,400 in 2022
  • Family plan: $2,800, the same as in 2022

HDHP annual out-of-pocket maximum

  • Individual plan: $7,500, up from $7,050 in 2022
  • Family plan: $15,000, up from $14,100 in 2022

Maximum out of pocket for ACA-compliant plans (non-grandfathered plans)

  • Individual plan: $9,100, up from $8,750 in 2022
  • Family plan: $18,200, up from $17,400 in 2022

Excepted-benefit HRAs

Maximum annual employer contribution: $1,950, up from $1,800 in 2022. Excepted-benefit HRAs are limited to paying for vision and dental coverage or similar benefits exempt from the ACA, and are not covered by the employer’s primary group plan.

For those 55 or older: People who are 55 or older are allowed to contribute an additional $1,000 a year to their HSA, under federal law.

Also, if both spouses with family coverage are 55 or older, they must have two HSA accounts in separate names if they each want to contribute an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution.

If only one spouse is 55 or older but the younger spouse contributes the full family contribution limit to the HSA in his or her name, the older individual must open a separate account to make the additional $1,000 catch-up contribution.

HSAs explained

Under federal law, an HSA must be tied to an HDHP. An HSA is a special bank account that can be used to pay for or reimburse for your employees’ eligible health care costs. They can put money into their HSA through pre-tax payroll deduction, deposits or transfers.

As the amount grows over time, they can continue to save it or spend it on eligible expenses.

Employers can also contribute to the accounts, but the annual contribution maximum applies to all contributions in total (from the employee and the employer).

The money in the HSA belongs to the employee and is theirs to keep, even if they switch jobs. The funds roll over from year to year and can earn interest. Some plans also have investment options for the funds.

Here’s how they work:

  • Employees can make withdrawals with a debit card or check specific to the HSA.
  • Employees can use the money in their HSA to pay for care until they reach their deductible, out-of-pocket expenses like copays and coinsurance.
  • They can use the funds to pay for other eligible expenses not covered by their HDHP, like dental or vision care (eye exams and corrective lenses).

Planning ahead

Knowing what these limits are in advance can help employers plan their messaging for the 2023 open enrollment season.

If you want to get ahead of the ball, you can start updating your payroll and plan administration systems to reflect the 2023 amounts.

You should also include the new limits in relevant communications you send to your staff, particularly in regards to open enrollment, plan documents and summary plan descriptions for next year.

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Year-Long Benefits Education Yields Happier Employees

While most organizations ramp up their benefits communications about a month before open enrollment starts, the efforts often drop off at the start of the year.

That’s a shame because many employees are woefully unaware of how their benefits function and are often not taking full advantage of what their employer and they are paying for. Employees that don’t understand their benefits fully may end up paying out of pocket for services that are covered.

With surveys showing that three in five employees have only a basic understanding of the benefits they receive from their employer, it’s important that you continue to educate your staff about their benefits, coverage changes brought on by recent regulations and how to get the most out of their current benefits.

If you enlighten them about what they have and how to use those benefits, they will be more likely to stay with you.

Keep it going

The month or two prior to open enrollment is when most companies kick their benefits communications into high gear. They start sending their employees e-mails, mail and memos making them aware of open enrollment and that they can start researching plans.

Most companies will hold at least one meeting with the troops to answer questions and explain any changes that are being made. But after open enrollment ends, communications often go into hibernation until the prelude to the next open enrollment.

You can fill that void by regularly “dripping” information to them over the course of the year. Each drip can be a short benefits meeting or educational information that is sent out to your employees.

For example, under a Biden administration executive order, as of Jan. 15, all health insurers are required to reimburse covered individuals for up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests per month. By keeping your staff informed of developments like these, they can save money and take advantage of this benefit more fully. Here’s how:

Be proactive

It’s important that you communicate benefit developments to your staff, and that requires that your human resources or benefits team stays on top of changes.

It’s the team’s responsibility to proactively alert employees about changes and updates about their benefits, as well as reminders about how certain benefits work. By sending out these reminders, or holding meetings, you can educate your workers in making the right benefit and coverage decisions.

Leverage technology

One key part of educating your employees requires tapping technology by offering an online hub that houses all of the information about each of the benefits you offer. This way, they can go to this source first if they have questions. It’s also more convenient for them as they can access it in the privacy of their homes.

Many health plans now also have apps for enrollees that give them a plethora of information about their coverage, including how much they have paid in deductibles over the year and other information about their health insurance.

Plan communications for the year

Design a content calendar that focuses on putting out timely information and reminders. For example, remind employees about how their health savings account works and what they can spend the funds on.  

During flu season, send out reminders on preventative measures they can take, including how their health insurance can help them get a flu shot.

Another topic could be instructions on adding spouses to their plans or notifications about Medicare for employees who are nearing 65 years old.

The key is to stay in front of your staff and always encourage them to come to your benefits team with any questions they have. One e-mail to your team could result in reminding one of them to come to you for clarification about their coverage.

The takeaway

By regularly communicating about your benefits to your staff, you can provide them with the confidence that they have the information they need about their benefits, and that if they don’t, they know how to get it. That in turn helps them make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

And your organization will also benefit as regular engagement gives you the opportunity to better evaluate your benefits offerings and identify areas where you can improve or expand.

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How Your Employees Can Get Free COVID Test Kits

While COVID-19 cases start rising again, more people are once again likely to contract the coronavirus — and that usually involves getting tested. But for employees in your group health plan, they have many options for obtaining a test with no out-of-pocket costs.

Under an executive order issued by President Biden, employees in a group health plan are eligible to receive COVID-19 at-home test kits with no cost-sharing, copay, coinsurance or deductible. Additionally, most health plans are also covering tests performed at hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

While we told you about these new rules a few months ago, it’s likely that a good many of your employees don’t know about it. With that in mind, you may want to disseminate information to them about how they can be reimbursed by their insurer for COVID-19 tests they purchase.

Here’s what your employees need to know:

Steps for reimbursement

Procedures will vary from insurer to insurer, but the order requires that health insurance carriers reimburse members for up to eight tests a month and no doctor’s order, prior authorization or prescription is required. This applies to any tests they purchased on or after Jan. 15, 2022.

Most health plans have preferred pharmacies that they urge their enrollees to go to for their take-home COVID-19 tests. In these instances, the plans will typically cover the cost at the point of sale so that the health plan member doesn’t have to pay out of pocket.

Covering costs upfront eliminates the need for members to submit reimbursement forms.

However, if they go to a non-network pharmacy or drugstore or purchase a kit online, the health insurer is still required to reimburse them for a test up to $12 (or the cost of the test if it’s less than that).

In these cases, the employee will have to pay for the test upfront and then seek reimbursement from their health insurer.

You can contact your health insurer for information and resources for how your staff can receive reimbursement. Most insurers have published materials to make it easier for your workers to access COVID-19 tests with no cost to them.

Typically, to be reimbursed for at-home test kits, members must submit the reimbursement form and a receipt that shows proof of purchase, which should include the name of the retailer, including the street address, or, if bought online, the website address; date of purchase; UPC code for the at-home test kit; and the cost of the kit.

The order that health plans cover these tests with no out-of-pocket costs for their enrollees will sunset when the federal public health emergency is declared over.

On-site tests

Health plans are also covering the cost of tests that are administered at pharmacies or in hospital settings after either a doctor ordered a test or if the person was exposed to someone who had COVID-19.

Like at-home tests, insurers will cover the costs of these tests regardless of if they are received in-network or from an out-of-network provider or pharmacy.

The types of COVID-19 tests health insurers currently cover are:

  • Individual testing with or without symptoms,
  • Testing ordered by a health care provider,
  • Testing for contact tracing, known or suspected exposure, and
  • Testing before or after travel (COVID-19 screening tests for domestic travel are usually covered by most plans, but enrollees should not expect their plan to cover any testing they do abroad).

After the public health emergency ends, however, it’s likely most insurers will stop covering tests obtained out of network.

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Gen Z, Millennials Grow Disillusioned with Their Health Insurance

Surprise bills and billing errors are driving growing dissatisfaction among Millennials and Gen Zers with their health insurance, a new study has found.

HealthCare.com‘s “2022 Medical Debt Survey” found that about one in four Gen Zers and Millennials with medical debt skipped rent or mortgage payments because of their debt. That’s compared with 21% for Gen Xers and 12% for baby boomers.

The study reflects the increasing burden that health insurers’ policies for out-of-network care and higher deductibles are having on Americans, particularly those who are the most recent entrants to the job market. Since they typically earn less than those who have more experience, Millennials and Gen Zers are more susceptible to hardships if they receive unexpected bills.

To help these generations of workers, consider offering them educational sessions on how to choose health plans, coupled with training on how to avoid unexpected health care bills by going to in-network providers, and how to shop around in advance for scheduled procedures.

Already facing outsized medical cost hits, an increase in billing mistakes and surprise bills is contributing to a dim view of health insurance among Millennials and Gen Zers. In fact, 68% of Gen Zers who have health insurance but still incurred medical debt said their health insurance plan didn’t cover the service they received (or they received services out-of-network).

Additionally, the study found that:

  • 39% of Millennials are unsatisfied with their health insurance options.
  • About three in 10 Gen Zers (31%) and Millennials (27%) with medical debt believe that their debt is the result of a billing error.
  • 48% of Millennials have received a surprise medical bill.
  • 35% of Millennials have received a mistaken bill or had a claim denied.
  • 26% of Millennials have medical debt.

Affordability of health insurance is also a big consideration. Some 54% of Millennials say their health insurance is somewhat or very affordable.

Millennials are also using their health insurance benefits differently than prior generations:

  • 48% say they have used an urgent care center in the past. These visits can often cost more than a typical visit, but not as much as going to the emergency room.
  • 35% have used telehealth services for physical ailments.
  • 26% have sought mental health services through telehealth platforms.
  • 27% have used discount pharmacy apps.

The takeaway

The key to improving your younger generation workers’ understanding of their health benefits and how best to use them is through education. It starts with perhaps having a special session during each open enrollment focusing on what type of health plans are best suited for their generation.

If you offer high-deductible health plans, educate your staff on the importance of putting money aside in health savings accounts so they have money to pay for those unexpected expenses.

They should also be educated in how to use their health insurance to avoid larger costs, and the ramifications of using providers not in their health plan’s network. The education should also cover the costs of going to an emergency room compared to scheduling an appointment with their doctor or going to an evening clinic at their office.

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Employers See Staff Drop Coverage, Sign Up on Exchanges

A surge in federal government subsidies has led many people to drop their employer-sponsored health insurance and instead seek out coverage on government-run Affordable Care Act exchanges, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Subsidies, which were increased substantially by COVID-19 stimulus legislation, are so large for some who purchase coverage on exchanges that many of them can access ACA plans that cost just a few dollars a month, depending on their income, according to the report.

But the defectors are likely to return to their employer-sponsored health plans as the subsidies are set to expire at the end of 2022, which will likely make their employer-sponsored coverage more affordable. Only individuals who work for organizations that have fewer than 50 full-time workers have been able to make this switch and enjoy low premiums.

Individuals who work for employers that are large enough to qualify as “applicable large employers” are barred from jumping into the individual market as they do not qualify. They instead are required to sign up for their employer’s group health plan or forgo coverage altogether. 

What’s happening

The American Rescue Plan, which took effect in 2021, expanded and increased tax credits available for purchasing coverage on federal- and- state-run exchanges through the end of 2022. Before that, the law limited eligibility for premium tax credits through the federal and state exchanges to households whose income is from 100% to 400% of the poverty level.

The stimulus bill removed that cap for 2021 and 2022, as well as limit the amount anyone pays in premiums to 8.5% of their income as calculated by the exchange. That means someone who made 450% of the poverty level would receive a premium tax credit that would reduce the premium they pay to 8.5% of their income. In those cases, the total tax credit runs into the thousands of dollars for the year.

The premium tax credit is based on factors that include income, age and the benchmark “silver” plan in a person’s geographic area. The amount they qualify for is basically advanced to them over the course of the year via reduced premiums. If they choose a bronze plan, they can greatly reduce their share of the premium.

These effects have been most pronounced for lower- to middle-income and single-income households. 

However, the premium tax credit comes to an end on Dec. 31, 2022, and the premium tax credit regime reverts to the prior one.

How to handle next open enrollment

It’s advisable that you assess your health insurance enrollment and see if any of your staff dropped their group health coverage and signed up for individual coverage on the exchange. If you are an applicable large employer, that should not have happened for the reasons mentioned above.

If you are a smaller employer not subject to the ACA, you should reach out to any employees who signed up on an exchange and inform them about the impending premium tax credit changes. Advise them that reverting to the old premium tax credit rules is likely to result in their share of the premium increasing substantially.

Remind them that your annual open enrollment is their only chance to secure group health coverage and that they should review their marketplace coverage as early as possible. If they wait too long and miss your open enrollment deadline, they could be stuck with the more expensive marketplace coverage.

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Measure Would Cap Insured Out-of-Pocket Cost of Insulin at $35

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 a month for people with group or private health insurance.

While the measure still has to face a vote in the Senate, it has broad backing after the cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years. People who used to pay less than $100 a month for the vital medication are sometimes paying more than $1,000, depending on their health insurance coverage.

More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and this legislation could be a game-changer for the estimated 7 million who have to take insulin to control their condition.

In the past decade, the cost of insulin has tripled in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising to about $666 a month. But some people need specific brands and can pay more than $1,000 a month for their brand.

For example, David Tridgell, a Minneapolis endocrinologist, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post citing the costs typical diabetics face:

  • Patients with Type 1 diabetes tend to use two or three vials of insulin per month. At the current cost of one vial of Humalog 50/50, these patients would spend $780 to $1,170 on their insulin every month.
  • Type 2 diabetes patients sometimes need six or more vials a month, which would run up the costs to $2,341 or more every month.

It can be especially costly for individuals enrolled in high-deductible health plans, in which enrollees have to pay the list price for their insulin until their deductible is met. This could mean thousands of dollars out of pocket before the insurer will cover the drug. Because of the soaring costs, many people report reducing dosages or rationing to make their insulin last longer.

Diabetes can lead to other serious health complications, including kidney failure, heart disease and loss of vision.

How it would work

HR 6833 would bar private health insurers, health plans and self-insured employers from applying a deductible on insulin and require that diabetics pay no more than $35 or the amount equal to 25% of the negotiated price of the selected insulin product, whichever is lower.

For no more than $35 a month, the Affordable Insulin Now Act would require private group or individual plans to cover both vial and pen dosage forms and any of the following insulin types:

  • Rapid-acting,
  • Short-acting,
  • Intermediate-acting, and
  • Long-acting.

Medicare Part D plans, Medicare stand-alone drug plans and Medicare Advantage drug plans would be required to charge no more than $35 for whichever insulin products they cover in 2023 and 2024, and for all insulin products beginning in 2025.

HR 6833 passed on a vote of 232 to 193, with 12 Republican representatives voting with the Democrats. The measure has been sent to the Senate.  If it passes the Senate and is signed into law, it will take effect in 2023.

We’ll keep you posted if this bill lands on President Biden’s desk and he signs it.

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Flexible Benefit Plans Give Employees More Options

One way you can give your staff more choice in the employee benefits they receive is to offer them a cafeteria plan, which allows them to put together a benefits package that works best for them.

Employers fund these flexible benefit plans with funds that are deducted from their employees’ salaries on a pre-tax basis. Since the salary reductions are not received by the employee, they are not considered wages for income tax purposes.

Cafeteria plans are particularly good for participants who have regular expenses related to medical issues and childcare.

The worker can choose from a menu of options into which they want to funnel the funds, and how they want those funds allocated. Options can include:

  • Health insurance,
  • Voluntary benefits premiums (like vision and dental),
  • Life insurance,
  • 401(k), and
  • Flexible spending account.

Besides the fact that your employees use money that hasn’t been taxed to pay for these benefits, the payroll deductions for them also reduce their taxable income while raising take-home pay.

A cafeteria plan is especially attractive because it lets them choose which benefits they want. This is great since one size does not fit all in the world of employee benefits.

Set-up and tax implications

Cafeteria plans are also called Section 125 plans because they were created by Section 125 of the IRS Code.

When a plan is created, the benefits are available to employees, their spouses, and their dependents. Depending on the circumstances and details of the plan, Section 125 benefits may also extend to former employees, but the plan cannot exist primarily for them.

Section 125 plans offer a number of tax-saving benefits for employers. For each participant in the plan, employers save on the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax, the State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA) tax, and workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

Combined with the other tax savings, a Section 125 plan usually funds itself because the cost to open the plan is low.

Also, it’s estimated that participating employees can save 20% to 40% of every dollar put into the plan. The employee chooses how much they want to put into the plan each year and this is deducted from their paycheck automatically for each payroll period.

Remember: Flexible benefit plans are not without their drawbacks. But if you want to attract and retain key personnel with competitive benefit packages while keeping your own costs low, they can be an attractive alternative to standard benefit plans.

Call us for more information on how you can set up a flexible benefit plan for your staff.

There are several types of flexible benefit plans, including cafeteria plans and flexible spending accounts.

Flexible spending accounts

An FSA lets your employees pay for medical-related expenses and dependent care that may not be covered by their health plan. They can later use these funds to pay for an array of expenses such as:

  • Out-of-pocket medical costs,
  • Acupuncture, chiropractic services and the like,
  • Medical equipment,
  • Day-care provider fees,
  • Elder care.

Also, employers can allow the employee to carry over a portion of the funds in an FSA to the first few months of the next year. The maximum permitted carryover amount is $550.

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Digital Health Benefit Tools Can Help Your Employees Save Money, Stay Healthy

It’s no secret that most employees do not fully understand all of their health insurance benefits, which can lead to worse health outcomes and them spending more money than they need to for some medical procedures.

A recent survey of 226 executives by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services concluded that employees and employers could enjoy better outcomes if it were easier for employees to find, understand and use the benefits available to them.

One of the biggest roadblocks to making that possible, the survey indicates, is the difficulty workers have in navigating their benefits programs.

Fortunately, a number of health technology companies have come to the fore to help employees see better health outcomes, shop around for medical services, educate themselves about their health and disease management, and choose the health plan that is best for them.

These tools can help employees make informed health care decisions, while their employer can save money. The tools can help them choose proper care that meets their needs and is within their budget. Some of the new tools on the market include:

Quizzify — This tool gamifies learning about health care through humorous, trivia-style quizzes, reviewed by doctors at Harvard Medical School. The system can help employees build knowledge about diagnostics, medical procedures, dental care, how to shop around for health services, and more.

The creators of Quizzify said they want to address the problem of Americans making far too few primary care visits, while they also receive too much health care that is unnecessary. All of that costs employees because:

  • Missing regular doctor’s appointments and preventative services can result in health emergencies later, and
  • Overtreatment and unnecessary treatments can lead to worse health outcomes and higher out-of-pocket costs.

Employees who use the tool rave about it, particularly how it helps them negotiate medical costs and provides them with advance knowledge that can help them save thousands of dollars in health care expenses.

Jellyvision’s Alex platform — This tool gives employees advice about accessing their health benefits and using their health savings accounts (HSAs) more effectively. It’s mainly geared towards large companies, but there are similar products being developed for the small and mid-sized employer market.

Some of Alex’s features include:

  • Personalized guidance during enrollment and ongoing engagement during the year, as it sends out reminders and tips about an employee’s health insurance and health maintenance.
  • A focus on reducing the cost to employers of employee confusion.
  • A built-in HSA that actively promotes investing in the account throughout the year.
  • Chronic disease management tools.
  • Benefits videos.
  • Engagement tools that help employers and staff improve their health literacy and save money.

League— This online tool and app is designed to help your employees choose which health plans are best for them, and to identify health risks and help them access preventative care. The platform also includes a mobile-first communications channel for employers.

League provides employees with a personalized health profile, as well as a digital wallet that holds employee assistance program information and other programs that you may be providing, such as HSAs.

The main features for employees include:

  • Digital wallet — This also holds HSA funds and allows your employees to pay for health and wellness services, review benefit coverage, and keep tabs on their HSA balance.
  • Marketplace — League can help your staff book appointments with over 1,000 local, vetted health professionals and access discounts on services and products.
  • Health concierge — They can talk to a registered nurse directly for instant advice.
  • Claims reimbursement — They can submit claims digitally to get reimbursed for services.
  • Tailored content — They can receive AI and data-driven recommendations and nudges regarding healthy behavior or recommendations for health screenings or procedures.

The takeaway

Online or digital tools alone won’t work for every worker. Some need a more human-centered approach to help them understand their benefits, how to get the most out of them and improve their health.

But tools like the above can go a long way towards educating them about their health and health benefits.

While many of your workers will easily adopt electronic price transparency tools, others will need time to get used to them. It’s important that you provide training for any benefit tool you roll out, and also leave the door open for employees to access one-on-one advice so they can make the right choices.

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Your Staff Are Susceptible to Medical Identity Theft

Medical-related identity theft accounted for 43% of all identity theft in the United States in 2020, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

And the majority of documents criminals steal are the same ones your employees receive from their group health insurers. If an employee becomes a victim of medical identity theft it can take them years to undo the damage, particularly if their identity is stolen in the process.

That’s why it’s important for any employer with a group health plan to warn its staff about the importance of safeguarding their medical and health insurance information, including plan information and health insurance cards.

Medical identity theft is when someone uses another person’s personal information — like their name, Social Security number, health insurance account number or Medicare number — to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, buy medical devices, submit claims with the victim’s insurance provider, or get other medical care.

If the thief’s health information is mixed with the victim’s, it could affect the medical care the victim is able to receive, or the health insurance benefits they are able to use. It could also hurt their credit.

People often learn they are victims of such fraud when they get a medical bill or a notice from their health insurance company about what will be covered for a procedure they never went in for.

Alert your staff

The most important advice for your staff is that they should take good care of their health insurance card. This includes:

  • Making sure they get their health insurance card back every time they use it.
  • Cutting up their old card whenever they receive a new one for a new policy year or other reason. The new one should be put in their wallet.
  • Reporting a loss immediately to their insurance company if the card is lost or stolen. They can issue a new one and void the old one, so that nobody can use it for doctor’s visits or to purchase medication.

Your employees should also keep their medical records, health insurance records and any other documents with medical information in a safe place. This includes:

  • Health insurance enrollment forms
  • Prescriptions
  • Prescription bottles
  • Doctor and medical provider billing statements
  • Explanation of Benefits statements from their health carrier.

Any of the above documents should be shredded when it’s time to replace or discard them.

Also, since thieves will sometimes steal mail from mailboxes, you can recommend that your workers sign up for paperless communications from their insurer.

How to identify fraud

Safeguarding the above information can go a long way towards avoiding medical identity theft, but it can still happen. Your employees should know the warning signs. The Federal Trade Commission recommends being on the lookout for the following:

  • You get a bill from your doctor for services you didn’t get.
  • You notice errors in your Explanation of Benefits statement, like services you didn’t get or prescription medications you don’t take.
  • You get a call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe.
  • You review your credit report and see medical debt-collection notices that you don’t recognize.
  • You get a notice from your health insurance company saying you reached your benefit limit.
  • You are denied insurance coverage because your medical records show a pre-existing condition you don’t have.

Action steps

If you think someone is using your personal information to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, buy medical devices, submit claims with your insurance provider, or get other medical care, taking the steps below will help you limit the damage:

  • Thoroughly review your medical records.
  • Contact your insurance company and each provider and pharmacy where a thief may have used your information, and ask for copies of these medical records. You may have to submit records requests and pay fees to get copies.
  • Review the records and look for errors, like visits or services you didn’t receive.
  • Report the errors to each provider, pharmacy and your insurance carrier, with backup documentation that shows the incorrect information and an explanation of why it’s wrong — and ask that they remove the visits and services from your records.

Under federal law, health insurers have 30 days to respond to your requests.

For good measure, your employees should also review their credit reports.

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