Finance News & Insights

3 ways to control health care costs that won't hurt workers' wallets

No surprise here: Health-care costs are expected to rise again in ’09. Fortunately there are some proven ways to keep costs from rising too high.

According to a Mercer survey, health-insurance costs for all employers will rise around 5.7% in 2009.

The good news: That’s the smallest spike in the past decade. The bad news: Charging employees more during troubled economic times could lead to resentment and even resignations.

Here are a few alternatives to shouldering workers with the higher costs:

Reward healthy workers. Hold screenings and assign points for how well your workers score in categories like body-mass index and blood pressure and reward the top scores. If you’re a small company, insurers like Principal Financial Group Inc. can do the screenings for you. And some of these non-traditional insurers can cost as much as 5% less than the traditional ones.

Debit cards for flexible spending. A great idea for small companies because they cut out the time-consuming paperwork of regular FSAs. Your workers can use the debit cards to cover co-pays or OTC meds not covered in your plan with pretax money that workers set aside.

Medical hotlines. Many of the trips employees take to the emergency room are unnecessary — and those costs quickly add up. Companies have found success and savings by asking workers with minor injuries to call nurse hotlines set up by their company. For example, OptumHealth includes a program, NurseLine, where workers can contact a registered nurse with a any medical concerns 24 hours a day through a toll-free number.

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  • Dawn

    MERP (Medical Expense Reimbursment Plan) as a small business trying to retain good employees without breaking the bank we talked with our insurance broker and went with the MERP plan. We purchased high deductable insurance with co-pay on basic services (regular checkups, chiropratic, dental cleanings and exams, eye exams and prescirptions) with everything else covered under the high deducable then paid out at 80/20. We setup a MERP plan with an outside administrator which reimburses the employee 80% of the deductable paid out of pocket by the employee, they just have to submit EOB (Eplantion of Benefits) to the MERP administrator. It has worked well for us and our employees and we have been able to offer better more affordable coverage.

  • Glenda

    We went with a $2,000 deductible and gave each employee a Take Care debit card with $1,200 on it to help them with their deductible. It worked well in some instances, but our employees without computer access had a hard time with it and I ended up doing a lot of the copying and faxing of claims. Most of our employees would rather have copays and prescription cards than have to deal with the reimbursement or substantiation of charges. And that is what we hope to go back to. We may even offer our employees the chance to “buy up” to a plan with less deductible if they want to and can afford it.

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