How to Protect and Retain Workers with Low-Cost Healthcare Plans

How to Protect and Retain Workers with Low-Cost Healthcare Plans

How to Retain Workers with Low-Cost Healthcare Plans

Goodroot CEO Mike Waterbury wrote an article for Manufacturing Today about how a healthcare navigator can assure employees in the Manufacturing industry get the most from their benefits. It is republished here in its entirety with permission. 

If you are operating in the US manufacturing sector, there is a very good chance that you are offering your employees health insurance. A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that 91 percent of the US manufacturing workforce has access to employer-provided healthcare benefits, with 74 percent participating.

By comparison, only 57 percent of the entire US workforce receives healthcare benefits from their employer (and only 74 percent even have the option).

For manufacturing companies, then, health insurance is a big deal. And as premiums continue to increase, it’s a bigger and bigger cost. According to the BLS report, manufacturing employers pay, on average, $506.64 per month for each employee receiving single coverage and $1322.92 per month for those signed up for family coverage. Ten years ago, those numbers were $332.47 and $984.13.

Those rising costs mean that providing health benefits is only getting more difficult. There are options for manufacturers looking to contain costs, but they do come with some drawbacks for employees.

Two ways to save on employee health insurance

High deductible health plans (HDHPs) can reduce monthly premiums, but they also place a larger burden on employees who face higher out-of-pocket costs before insurance coverage kicks in, currently up to $15,000 for a family plan.

A Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) plan is another option. As the name states, these plans allow large employers to avoid tax penalties by offering the minimum required coverage to their workforce, but they can also result in high out-of-pocket costs due to the limitations of the coverage, which often excludes prescription drugs, hospital care or surgery.

Both of these avenues can result in increased medical debt for the employee. But it’s not an inevitability. A well-informed workforce can make the most of HDHP or MEC plans without compromising their health, proving beneficial for both the employee and the manufacturer’s bottom line.

For these employees, a healthcare benefit navigator can be a big help. Navigators help employees better understand their policies, working with them to avoid high costs, when possible.

Improving employee satisfaction and productivity

Employees attempting to access their benefits can feel overwhelmed and will often make uninformed choices about their health and, by extension, their finances. The resulting stress and debt aren’t good for them, and it isn’t good for their employer. What’s more, they will likely need to address healthcare issues during the workday, when providers and insurers are available, leading to productivity issues.

This is a particular concern with employees on MEC and HDHP plans. Employees on these plans may have even more questions about their deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Having incomplete information could mean more medical debt than is necessary.

The healthcare navigator acts as a kind of translator and guide for these employees, providing one-on-one guidance and even doing legwork like gathering quotes from providers. The navigator eliminates the need for employees to make calls to insurers and providers during the workday and also takes the pressure off a company’s human resources department, which is often asked healthcare questions that are outside its scope of duty or expertise. The result is an employee who feels confident and supported and an HR department that can focus on other critical tasks.

Another way a healthcare navigator can help an employee avoid debt is by opening the door to financial assistance programs. Every nonprofit hospital in the US is required to offer financial assistance – but not many people who qualify for these programs know they exist, or that they are available to middle-income workers like many in the manufacturing industry.

The programs are intended to provide discounted, or even free care to eligible patients. In some locations patients with incomes as high as 400 percent of the federal poverty line may qualify for assistance. What does that mean in real numbers? A family of 4 with an annual income of $120,000 may be able to get help.

Someone in the employee’s corner

In a tight labor market like the one the US is experiencing right now; benefits packages are essential to attracting and retaining employees. The manufacturing industry is no exception, given the multitude of options available to workers.

Providing solid benefits and the tools to use them in the most financially effective way reinforces a company’s commitment to the well-being of its employees. It’s part of creating a supportive culture that ultimately improves retention rates and enhances a company’s reputation as a supportive and caring employer.

Offering top-tier benefits simply isn’t possible for a lot of manufacturers. But when employers help their team make more informed decisions about how to use their benefits, HDHP and MEC plans punch above their weight. Employees save on out-of-pocket costs, and employers benefit from a financially and physically healthier workforce.

Featured Company
Focus Areas
  • Reducing Pharmacy Costs
  • Reengineering Health Benefits
  • Realigning Healthcare Incentives
  • Removing Cost Barriers
  • Redefining Administrative Efficiency
Experts In This Article
Michael Waterbury
Michael Waterbury
Chief Executive Officer, Goodroot

Nick McLaughlin
CEO, Breeze

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