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How Employers Can Drive Down Health Care Costs

Employers Must Leverage Digital Tools to Manage Health Care Costs

Many employers are focused on when and how to bring employees safely back to office environments in a manner that prioritizes the health and wellness of their employees. In addition to a return plan, employers need to think about a host of other impacts from the pandemic and strategize on how to address them.

For example, employers must also consider the large volume of elective surgeries and non-emergent procedures that were placed on the backburner for several months and are starting to get rescheduled across the country. This will create a surge of employees who will be looking to access their health care benefits as part of the return to “normal,” and create a corresponding spike in employer health care costs at a time when employers are looking to manage expenses due to the financial impact of the pandemic. The cost of health care is also a major concern for employees, many of whom have seen their income decrease due to furloughs or pay cuts. In an already expensive health care system, that means getting care may be more unaffordable than ever.

While a recent study reports that employer health care costs may go down by up to 4% this year due to delayed care, this same study also acknowledges that certain areas of the country with higher infection rates and/or employers with lower levels of deferred care may actually be looking at an increase of up to 3% in health care costs. Even for businesses in the “best” scenario, decreases in employer health care costs likely still won’t be enough to offset revenue lost during the pandemic. All businesses would benefit from looking at additional cost management strategies to help bend the cost curve for both employers and employees.

Digital shopping platforms are effective tools to help manage costs. Digital shopping tools, like Sapphire Digital’s SmartShopper platform, provide actionable recommendations that empower employees to be more confident health care shoppers and make better decisions that deliver health care savings. By easily comparing options, employees can choose the best location for their care at the best price, saving employers thousands of dollars per year.

Additionally, employers should look for plans with benefits that include access to a health care advocate to help employees navigate their care journey. Our SmartShopper Personal Assistant Team complements the SmartShopper digital platform by offering employees the ability to speak to a live person who can help them understand their options and schedule appointments. They can also chat online or text, if they prefer. Personal Assistants provide a human touch to help employees confidently select high-value care options that save money for themselves and their employers.

Many businesses are facing a make or break moment as they deal with the financial strain of the pandemic. Now is the time for them to think about areas where they can manage costs without negatively impacting their employees. There is a huge opportunity for employers to make cost-effective health care decisions coming out of COVID-19 and I urge business leaders to do their research on these options to help improve their financial well-being, as well as that of their employees.

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