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American Workers Are Burned Out; Employers Can Help

American employers are trying to meet their workers’ mental health needs as they struggle with burnout and stress from their jobs and finances, according to a new report.

The annual “Aflac WorkForces Report” found that more than 50% of American workers experience burnout in their workplace. Additionally, 57% experience work-related stress, with heavy workloads the biggest stressor among young workers.

The survey results also showed found that employees are struggling with their mental well-being, and that employers can help by providing their staff with mental health tools and resources.

The poll also found that only half of workers (48%) had confidence that their employers cared about their well-being. This is a significant decline compared to 56% and 59% in 2022 and 2021, respectively.

In 2023, 89% of employees are experiencing mental health challenges like depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping, the survey revealed. The overwhelming majority of millennials (64%) and Gen-Z (67%) face high levels of burnout in the workplace.

In contrast, most employers (78%) believe their workers are satisfied.

The biggest stressor

Aflac noted that one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety among workers is unexpected medical expenses. Moreover, while many employees have financial resources to cover medical emergencies, the state of financial wellness among the workers remains fragile.

According to the survey, 51% of American workers have savings to pay medical bills (a 6% increase compared to 2022). However, only 50% can afford out-of-pocket expenses that exceed $1,000. The survey also indicated that 48% of employees can’t survive without a paycheck for a month. Also, 30% of workers are in a worse financial position (compared to 2022).

What you can do

Not addressing burnout can reduce the quality of life for your staff and it could have downstream implications on your workforce — including diminished job satisfaction and work-life balance among those suffering from burnout, as well as a high chance they’ll be looking for new work.

To ensure employee satisfaction and retention, employers can provide mental health tools and resources. Here are a few tips that can help with employee satisfaction, retention and recruitment.

Improving work-life balance

Work-life balance perks — You can help workers maintain a balance between work and personal life. Dedicating an equal amount between the two eliminates burnout and stress. You can do this by offering:

  • Flexible work schedules. A flexible work schedule gives employees a sense of autonomy. Instead of the traditional 9-5, you can give them the freedom to choose specific hours they wish to work or allow them to work four 10-hour days, leaving one day for personal stuff.
  • More time off. One in three (33%) employees surveyed by Aflac ranked increased time off as their first choice for addressing burnout. More time off can be in the form of additional vacation time or “mental health” days.
  • Paid sick leave. Workers who have paid sick leave can take those days off when they really need to stay home and don’t feel obligated to go to work when sick just because they need the money.

Other ways to help

Provide an EAP — Employee assistance programs include free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.

EAPs address a range of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems and psychological disorders.  

Offer creative bonuses — Offer cash bonuses for exceptional work efforts. If you can’t afford to pay your employees cash bonuses, you can consider something like morning or afternoon off, vacation vouchers, gym memberships and free lunches, to name a few.

Encourage regular breaks — Many workers fail to take their breaks because they get too wrapped up in work, or out of fear they will look bad in front of their colleagues.

Provide supplemental insurance — Supplemental benefits include accident, critical illness, hospital indemnity, disability, cancer, life, vision and dental insurance. These are designed to complement medical insurance, particularly for workers with high deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses. Premiums for many of these benefits are quite affordable.


EEOC Ramping Up Workplace Anti-Discrimination Efforts

Employers should brace for increased enforcement by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after it received a budget boost and has a new board member, breaking a deadlock that’s been going on for nearly a year.

Here’s the latest EEOC news that’s pointing to more robust enforcement by the agency:

  • In the federal government’s fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 143 lawsuits were filed against employers for alleged discrimination against employees, 52% more than in 2022. All but three of them were filed in the last eight months of the year, indicating a rapid increase that’s spilling over into the current fiscal year.
  • The EEOC’s budget for 2024 increased $26 million, or 6%, from 2023.
  • The composition of the five-member EEOC changed in July, when a new commission member was finally confirmed after a year-long wait, giving Democrat-appointed members a majority. The commission had been deadlocked up until that point with two Republican-appointed members and two Democrat appointments.

These developments indicate that the EEOC will step up its enforcement of federal employment laws. Accordingly, employers should be extra-vigilant in preventing acts or conditions in the workplace that might appear to break the law.

The EEOC is a federal agency charged with enforcing federal laws that prohibit discrimination against job applicants and employees on several grounds. These include race, sex, color, religion, age and disability, among others.

In recent years, the number of lawsuits it filed has shrunk. During some years of the Obama administration, it filed more than 300 suits annually. That number fell to 97 in 2020 and was 124 in 2021.

An EEOC investigation can have several effects on an employer:

  • Time that would have been spent running the business must be dedicated to responding to the charges. Work activities are disrupted as the EEOC requests documents and interviews staff members.
  • Employee morale can tumble when staff find out the government is investigating alleged discriminatory practices.
  • It can tie up the employer for a very long time. The EEOC says most investigations take 10 months or so, but experts say that is an underestimate.

How to prevent an EEOC investigation

The best thing an employer can do is to avoid giving workers any reason to believe they’ve been victims of discrimination. You can do this by:

  • Establishing a strong and clear written anti-discrimination policy. It should expressly state that discrimination against any of the protected classes of employees is illegal and intolerable. You should include it in your employee handbook and communicate it often to workers. A good policy will include easy to understand examples of prohibited conduct.
  • Establishing an anti-retaliation policy. It should make clear that employees who complain of illegal discrimination against themselves or colleagues will not be retaliated against. EEOC statistics showed that most of the complaints it received in 2020 were for retaliation.
  • Training managers and other employees on compliance with applicable laws.
  • Developing and following a consistent process for addressing complaints.
  • Promptly investigating all complaints of discrimination and taking actions, if necessary.
  • Thoroughly documenting all steps in the investigation and retaining the records for future reference.
  • Using progressive discipline with violators, with the severity of the consequences increasing for each subsequent violation.


Every employer should carry employment practices liability insurance. This coverage protects the business against claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and other wrongful workplace acts.

However, there can be great differences between policies, so it’s important that you work with us to find a policy that is right for your organization.

The EEOC is clearly taking employee discrimination claims more seriously. That makes it all the more important that your organization does the same.


More Employers Offering Deductible-Free Plans

As more Americans struggle with medical costs and rising out-of-pocket expenses, more employers are starting to offer deductible-free plans, according to a new report.

Mercer’s “2023-2024 Inside Employees’ Minds” survey results jibe with other reports that some insurers’ fastest growing group health plans carry no deductibles.

Workers covered by these plans often receive more preventive care than those who are in plans with deductibles, and they often pay up to 50% less out of pocket, UnitedHealthcare’s chief operating office, Dirk McMahon, told investors recently. He added that these plans can help their employers reduce the total cost of care by an average of 11%.

Employers understand the increasing financial burden that health insurance and out-of-pocket costs are imposing on some of their employees. Medical debt is a growing problem in the U.S.

Employers are taking a number of different approaches:

  • 15% offer free employee-only coverage in at least one medical plan.
  • 18% use salary-based contributions, meaning that employees who earn less also pay less for their coverage, while their higher-wage colleagues pay more.
  • 39% offer at least one health plan with no or low deductible. These are often known as copay plans.
  • 6% make larger contributions to the health savings accounts of their lower-wage staff.

Employers have several types of health plans to choose from when designing their benefits packages. Because attracting and retaining talented staff is a high priority for many organizations, they often look for the best health plan available.

One option that appeals to many employers is the no-deductible health plan. These plans are attractive because they cover health care costs immediately, eliminating high out-of-pocket expenses for employees. But, no-deducible health plans have high premiums, which may make them difficult for some employers to afford.

No-deductible plan trade-offs

No-deductible plans may:

  • Have higher premiums to account for the more generous benefit.
  • Feature higher copays.
  • Have limited network providers,
  • Have fewer covered health services.

Depending on your benefits budget and your workforce demographics, no-deductible health plans may be your best option for staff who are high health care users. There are a few issues you should consider when mulling offering such plans. Here are the main pros and cons:


  • These plans can reduce your workers’ out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • The plans are well-suited for people who incur high medical expenses, like those with chronic conditions, who make frequent doctor’s visits and/or who are taking expensive prescription medications or have many prescriptions they regularly refill.
  • People who know how much they will pay upfront for care are more likely to access care when they need it, particularly for chronic conditions, and they are more likely to go to annual checkups.
  • There is less likelihood of receiving surprise medical bills.


  • These plans typically have higher monthly premiums.
  • Copay outlays can add up for high users of medical services.
  • Some plans may restrict eligible services and items, perhaps by not including certain drugs in their formularies or by offering a limited provider network.

The takeaway

While no-deductible plans will be attractive to many workers, they are not for everyone and their higher premium may dissuade many people from choosing them, even if you have a generous premium-sharing arrangement. If you agree to pay a set amount towards their insurance premium, these plans can still cost hundreds of dollars more a month for the employee.

People who do not use their health insurance much are not good candidates for these plans as well, since they may end up paying higher premiums for services they don’t use.


Chronic Conditions Driving Health Care Costs

A new report has found that the top driver of health care costs in the U.S. is chronic conditions, emphasizing the role that employers can assume in helping their employees better maintain these ailments.

Chronic diseases are a major strain on the health care system, and they are costly to treat. Worse, many people with these ailments do not manage them well and do not change their lifestyles to improve them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, six out of every 10 American adults have at least one chronic condition, with 40% having two or more.

As a result, chronic conditions play an outsized role in the cost of group health insurance. In order to contain costs and improve outcomes for their workers, employers can employ a number of different strategies, according to the report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

The CDC defines chronic disease as a condition that lasts at least a year and affects or limits daily activities or requires regular medical attention. The seven most common conditions are:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, employers can try to contain costs, and hopefully their insurance premiums, by implementing a few strategies.

Disease management

Depending on the condition, chronic disease management programs will vary and it is usually a multi-pronged approach involving the plan enrollee’s health care provider and employer programs. Disease management should include:

  • Regular screenings and checkups.
  • Structured treatment plans.
  • Education on how to manage their disease and self-care strategies. Some programs help enrollees to set goals for their health.
  • Promoting the benefits of regular exercise and a nutritious diet, and empowering enrollees to take control of their health.
  • Integrating wellness programs focused on chronic disease management and that promote a healthy lifestyle.
  • Empowering enrollees to take control of their health.

Coordinated care

It’s important for people with chronic conditions to receive care that’s coordinated among different providers. This is crucial as these diseases can have multiple effects, requiring the involvement of more than one physician with different specialties.

The key is that providers have in place systems and procedures that ensure that the patient’s various physicians are sharing information with one another, and that the patient is kept in the loop. This care requires:

  • Access to care from different health care providers,
  • Coordination between primary care, acute care and long-term care,
  • Strong communications among providers, and
  • Easily understandable patient communications.

Employee engagement and education

You as an employer can also do your part by making sure employees with chronic diseases make choices that ensure access to providers that focus on coordinated care.

You can also offer wellness programs that give employees with chronic diseases access to care coordination, medication management, disease-specific education, self-monitoring tools and peer support. For example, an employee wellness program may provide employees with diabetes with glucose meters, insulin pumps, diabetes educators and online support groups.

Employee wellness programs can help employees adopt healthier behaviors and lifestyles by providing them with information, motivation, support and resources. For example, an employee wellness program may offer free or discounted gym memberships, healthy food options, wellness challenges and rewards for reaching health goals.

Take advantage of essential services

To keep their disease from worsening or to identify possible health issues that may be developing, it’s vital that plan enrollees take advantage of preventive services that the Affordable Care Act requires be offered with no out-of-pocket costs:

  • Screenings and counseling.
  • Routine immunizations.
  • Preventive services for men and women.

Even when a member does not receive preventive care and develops a chronic disease, preventive measures can ensure that the disease remains in a low-severity stage.

The takeaway

The key for employers is outreach, particularly in the run-up to and during open enrollment. You can take additional steps to ensure workers with chronic disease are engaged and that they are educated in choosing plans that may offer them the best care for their condition.

Furthermore, you can offer wellness plans that reward healthy behavior, and you can educate your workers about their health coverage and the importance of getting regular screenings and inoculations.


Open Enrollment: Help Younger Workers Understand Their Coverage

A new study’s findings that many workers have a poor understanding of their employer-sponsored health insurance benefits, presents an opportunity for businesses to extend targeted support to staff during open enrollment.

The “2023 Optavise Healthcare Literacy Survey” found that 32% of employees are not confident about understanding how their plan works, meaning that many of your staff may have trouble finding, understanding and using information and services to make health insurance decisions.

As the plan sponsor, you can step in to help them during open enrollment by providing them with tailored information and guidance.

Employees who don’t understand their coverage may choose plans that are not right for them, and because of their lack of knowledge, they are more likely to stick with the same plan and not explore other options during open enrollment.

To help your staff who may not be as up to speed on how their health plan works, your human resources team has a few options.

Focus on younger workers

The Optavise study found differences in health insurance understanding among the various generations in the workforce, with millennials and Gen Z workers having the poorest understanding of health insurance terms.

The study authors recommend a return-to-basics approach during open enrollment for these workers. That could include holding meetings for them to explain the basics of health insurance, particularly how plans with higher premiums will typically have lower deductibles and copays, while low-premium plans usually have higher deductibles and copays.

Also, if you have a multi-generational workforce or workers with chronic conditions, you’ll want to tailor your pitches depending on the employee. Your presentations should focus on multiple scenarios that explain which options are best, depending on your workers’ age, health and life circumstances.

One-on-one communications

The study found that workers don’t often turn to their employers first when they have questions or need information about health insurance or their health plans:

  • 46% said they reached out to friends and family for information.
  • 35% taught themselves about terms and processes by going online or reading other materials.
  • 27% sought out information from their company’s HR department.

Given the often-poor accuracy of information from online sources, and that their friends and family likely aren’t experts on the subject, it’s a good bet that many people are getting bad information about health insurance.

While group training and providing online tools and printed material can help your workers, one-on-one meetings seem to be the most effective in helping workers:

  • 84% reported they found one-on-one sessions very or extremely useful.
  • 68% said online resources were very or extremely helpful.
  • Only 49% found e-mail correspondence was very or extremely helpful.

You may want to urge your employees to schedule face-to-face meetings with relevant HR staff. One-on-one meetings let your employees ask specific questions. By having conversations about their current medical needs or family situation, employees can best determine the most reasonable option for them.

Focus on points of confusion

The study also asked workers what kind of information about their group health plans they wanted to know more about. The following answers provide a list of topics you may want to cover during open enrollment meetings:

  • How to avoid surprise medical bills.
  • How my deductible, copay/coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum work, and what it means for my wallet.
  • How to review an Explanation of Benefits and medical bill for errors.
  • Researching health care costs, and why it matters.
  • How to choose where to get care.
  • How to choose a plan.

The takeaway

You can play an important role in educating your workers about their health coverage.

Smart employers will tailor their benefits communications, literature and meetings to meet the varying needs of their workers. It’s good to provide materials and education through various sources like a portal and literature, meetings — and in particular one-on-one meetings, which are seen as the most effective.

A personal approach can be especially helpful to ensure that your workers choose plans from which they will benefit the most in light of their budget and needs.


Retaliation Accounts for 35% of All EEOC Complaints

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seeing a wave of retaliation complaints by employees. Retaliation charges accounted for more than 35% of all charges filed with the commission in fiscal year 2022.

Retaliation means any adverse action that you or someone who works for you takes against an employee because they complained about harassment or discrimination. Any negative action that would deter a reasonable worker in the same situation from making a complaint qualifies as retaliation. 

Employees who participate in an investigation of any of these problems are also protected. For example, you cannot punish an employee for giving a statement to a government agency that is looking into a discrimination claim.

Employment law attorneys say that the increase is in part because employees who sue for retaliation have a higher degree of success than those who bring a regular discrimination charge. It’s important that all employers train their managers and supervisors to not retaliate against workers making complaints, as the result can be a costly lawsuit.

Thanks to a precedent-setting case, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad vs. White, while an employee alleging discrimination must prove that they suffered a “materially adverse employment action,” a retaliation plaintiff only needs to show that the employer undertook some action that may dissuade them from making or supporting a charge.

Employment law experts recommend that employers do the following:

Set clear and unambiguous policies

  1. Your company policy should clearly state that retaliation is not permitted.
  2. The policy should describe the parameters of inappropriate conduct as well as you can define them.
  3. Put the policy in writing.
  4. Set reporting and grievance procedures, including the person to whom the employee can report a retaliation complaint.
  5. Have staff sign an acknowledgment of receipt of your policy.

Investigate complaints promptly

  1. Remember that anyone who participates in an investigation is likely protected from retaliation (not just the employee who makes a complaint, but witnesses as well).
  2. Communicate results of the investigation to the grievant.
  3. Take effective remedial measures, including carefully reviewing all disciplinary measures before imposing them. You should also ensure that disciplinary actions are consistent with past practices.

Train managers and supervisors

Finally, you should train managers and supervisors and ensure they understand your policies.

Make sure they understand who is protected from retaliation (participants, complainants, and even persons related to the complainant in some cases).

They should also understand what constitutes retaliatory conduct and, if they are unsure, they should speak to your human resources manager.


How to Handle Spousal Coverage for Your Staff

While the Affordable Care Act requires employers to offer coverage for employees’ adult children until the age of 26, it does not require them to offer coverage to their workers’ spouses.

As employers try to balance the costs of offering health coverage, spousal coverage is often on the table for cutting when making cost decisions. Many employers view offering spousal coverage as a way to keep up morale and serve as a recruitment and retention tool, but others consider the option a burden.

Cutting it out completely though is often a bitter pill for many employees to swallow, particularly if their spouse’s employer doesn’t offer coverage or if they don’t work. And if they are forced to go to a public insurance exchange, their bitterness could deepen further. What’s required is a diplomatic solution.

Instead of cutting it out completely, employee benefits experts suggest one of two ways to deal with the spousal coverage dilemma and reduce costs at the same time: a spousal carve-out or a spousal surcharge.

1. Spousal carve-out

With this approach, the employer defines plan eligibility so that spouses are ineligible to participate if they are eligible for coverage at their own employer. As an employer, you need to consider the following if this is the way you want to go:

  • Will eligibility for any type of employer-sponsored coverage make the spouse ineligible? What if the spouse is only eligible for an employer-sponsored “mini-med” plan or other limited plan coverage?
  • Is the cost of the other employer-sponsored coverage a factor in determining eligibility? One common approach is to make the spouse ineligible for the plan only if the spouse’s cost of the other employer-sponsored coverage is less than a certain dollar amount.

Creative approach: Create a spousal carve-out program with an escape hatch that allows the spouse to remain on your plan if the price the spouse would have to pay for coverage under his or her own employer’s plan exceeds a specified threshold.

2. Spousal surcharge

Charging a surcharge for spouses who are eligible for coverage at their own employer provides an incentive for spouses to choose to enroll in the other coverage, while still allowing eligibility in the employer’s plan for those who need it.

That said, this approach is an extra level of complexity in the communication and administration of benefits and payroll.

Creative approach: You can use a carrot instead of a stick. That is, give a monetary award to employees whose spouses switch from your plan to the spouse’s employer’s plan.


There are three ways to verify if a spouse has coverage through their employer:

  • Employee affidavit. Your employee signs a statement certifying that his or her spouse is ineligible for other employer-sponsored coverage.
  • Certification from the spouse’s employer. Have the spouse’s employer provide a letter stating that they are ineligible for health coverage. This approach may be difficult if the employer is not cooperative.
  • Eligibility audits. You can do spot-checking of employee spouses’ lack of access to coverage by randomly picking staff members and contacting each spouse’s employer, rather than seeking verification in every case.

Diabetes Wellness Programs Can Boost Productivity, Reduce Costs

Physicians and employee health experts are increasingly recommending that employers include diabetes screening, prevention and management in their company-sponsored wellness programs.

Diabetes — known as the “silent killer” — afflicts more than 29 million Americans, or 9% of the population.

Type 2 diabetes — or adult-onset diabetes — accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity.

The fallout from the disease has a significant impact on businesses as it can lead to stress, depression and a number of other health problems, including cancer, stroke and heart issues. That in turn leads to lost productivity for you as well as presenteeism, or the dilemma of a worker being at work but not being productive.

Medical costs and costs related to time away from work, disability and premature death that were attributable to diabetes totaled $245 billion in 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of that total, $69 billion was due to lost productivity.

With these statistics in mind, it’s imperative that employers help their workers manage their diabetes. Helping them get diabetes under control or helping them avoid developing the disease can keep your productivity strong, reduce your workers’ comp claims and also chip away at your health insurance expenses thanks to lower premiums.

Diabetes means decreased productivity

Of the roughly $69 billion that U.S. employers lost in 2019 from decreased productivity due to diabetes:

  • $21.6 billion was from the inability to work as a result of diabetes.
  • $20.8 billion was from presenteeism.
  • $18.5 billion was from lost productive capacity due to early mortality.
  • $5 billion was from missed workdays.
  • $2.7 billion was from reduced productivity for those not in the labor force.

Prevention and management

Employers can help by providing their employees with a voluntary diabetes management and prevention program. This wellness benefit can take many forms.

The Integrated Benefits Institute during an annual forum recently held a session highlighting what some employers are doing to educate their workers on how to manage diabetes:

  • The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has partnered with the American Diabetes Association to deliver educational seminars on diabetes to its workforce.
    The agency also offers as part of its diabetes program health risk and orthopedic assessments, glucose and cholesterol screenings, nutritional counseling, exercise classes and a walking club. (Since the transport agency’s wellness plan provider initiated the diabetes program, its workers’ comp claims have also fallen.)
  • Caterpillar, Inc. found diabetes to be one of its primary cost drivers, so it now provides incentives for employee risk assessments and care management. For example, half of the employees in its diabetes management program reduced their A1C levels (a measure of diabetes control), while 96% reported measuring these levels regularly and 72% reported meeting recommended activity levels.
  • The City of Asheville, NC, used local pharmacists to coach employees on how to manage diabetes. More than 50% of those in the program experienced improved A1C levels, and the number of employees with diabetes that achieved optimal levels increased.
  • Vanderbilt University expanded a pilot program of intensive exercise and nutrition that helped employees with diabetes improve cholesterol and blood sugar. About 25% of the employees were able to stop taking their diabetes medications.
  • The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund works with its health insurer to offer its employees access to diabetes prevention and control programs. Employees voluntarily participate in worksite health screenings. Those who have pre-diabetes can attend YMCA-led diabetes prevention programs either at work or in the community.

The takeaway

Having a diabetes wellness program among your voluntary benefit offerings can help your employees avoid diabetes or manage it if they already have the disease. That helps not only their health, but also your bottom line.

If you would like to know more about educating your employees about diabetes and helping those with pre-diabetes or diabetes manage their condition, call us.


More Providers Charge for Telemedicine, Phone Visits and Doctor E-Mails

More hospitals and insurers have started charging patients for virtual care services as they have grown in usage and providers are spending more time meeting patients in telehealth appointments and responding to their e-mails.

Many hospital systems have started billing patients for e-mails they send to their physicians and, depending on the level of out-of-pocket expenses in their plan, they may pay just a few dollars for a copay or up to $100 if they have a high deductible.

With these forms of communication growing in use, employers may want to remind their employees to look at their plans’ benefits summaries to see how much they will have to pay for these services.

The hospitals argue that physicians spend a significant amount of time responding to inquiries and it takes just as much time for them to conduct telemedicine and phone appointments as it does in-person visits.

A short five-minute session with a patient on a phone or video appointment will typically result in associated work, including reviewing the patient’s chart, updating notes and putting in orders for medications, tests or referrals.

Billing under insurance

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced Medicare billing codes for telemedicine in 2019, paving the way for providers to allow patients to seek reimbursement for messages their doctors send them using an electronic portal.

Under the rules, a provider can bill for a message only if it’s in response to a patient inquiry and requires at least five minutes of the doctor’s time.

Many of the country’s health insurers have followed Medicare’s lead, reimbursing hospitals for doctors’ e-mails. In turn, insurers may charge patients a copay or they may have to pay for the service fully if they have a deductible they must first meet. Even then, fees for these types of appointments are typically lower than for in-person visits.

It should be noted that there may not be fees associated with some services such as asking a doctor for a prescription refill or follow-up care.

How it’s being billed

The amount that patients are being billed varies among hospital systems and insurers.

According to recent surveys, out-of-pocket telemedicine visits are an average of $30-75 nationally, with most visits at around $40-50. According to Becker’s Hospital Review:

  • Medicare pays around $50 per televisit on average.
  • Mayo Clinic started charging $50 for some online emails written by its doctors after a surge in mail volume.
  • Humana’s health plan On Hand charges $0 to $5 per visit.
  • Walmart offers its employees $4 telehealth appointments.
  • SSM Health, a hospital system in St. Louis, charges $25.
  • Summa Health, a hospital system in Akron, Ohio, charges $30.

The takeaway

Hospitals and providers are all charging different amounts for televisits, phone visits and their doctors sending e-mails. As well, insurers have different cost-sharing structures for their enrollees.

It’s important that you warn your employees to read plan summaries of these costs if they are regular users of these services, as health plan coverage will vary depending on deductible and copay levels. Doing this can help them avoid surprise bills, particularly if they have grown used to paying nothing for such services.

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