It’s a tough time for a lot of people out there: inflation is driving up the cost of everything from food to gas and your employees are feeling the sting. But even if this is the case, most Americans don’t realize they can comparison shop to make sure they’re getting the best price for their healthcare services. A survey from AKASA, a healthcare artificial intelligence company, revealed that nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans have never tried to find the price of a specific healthcare service.
Paying more for healthcare doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality service or better outcomes. This is why shopping around for healthcare is so important, it can result in cost savings for both employees and employers. Today we’re going to talk about strategies employers can use to encourage employees to shop for high-value healthcare, which can help lower your organization’s health care costs.
1. Educate Employees
One of the first steps in helping encourage employees to shop around for healthcare is education. Employers have a unique opportunity to provide data and information to help employees understand the savings potential of healthcare comparison shopping.
Specifically, employers can help employees understand price variation and explain how to best shop around. According to Healthcare Bluebook data, U.S. healthcare prices vary an average of 650% for the same procedure. That’s a huge variance.
Additionally, the federal government has started increasing price transparency for health care services, which can help with comparison shopping. For example, new rules require hospitals to post pricing online for various services and procedures. Starting next year, health insurers must share their negotiated prices with the public. So, as health care pricing gets more transparent, employers can really help employees better understand these price lists.
2. Provide Transparency Tools
Employers can direct employees to user-friendly tools that break down pricing. Employers should connect with their benefits partners to understand what resources and transparency tools are already available for their employees. Some of these you’re already paying for but aren’t utilizing. There are also state-sponsored resources that offer tools to help consumers compare hospitals, health care facilities, and other providers in their state.
It’s essential to explain that if high healthcare costs are left unchecked, employees may experience reduced benefits or increased employee cost sharing. Of course, savings can help the organization, but it’s important to highlight how employees individually benefit.
3. Incentivize Behaviors
Another way to help make healthcare shopping top of mind for employees is to create rewards for certain consumer behaviors. Employers can create incentives for employees that use employer-provided price transparency tools to comparison shop for services and procedures.
Some employers may offer cash incentives, while others offer wellness program points. For example, wellness points could be redeemed for health savings account contributions or reduced cost sharing. As with any organizational initiative, employers should consider making it fun. Gamification (e.g., point scoring and social connection) can help facilitate friendly competition and increase employee engagement and motivation.
Healthcare costs are undeniably going to continue rising. Employers will need to take proactive approaches to reduce these costs. They have an opportunity to make employees feel empowered to take charge of their health and actively comparison shop for quality healthcare at the best price. A mix of education, provision of tools and incentivization may be the magic combination to help change employees’ health care shopping behaviors.
If you’re interested in learning more about this, give us a call. We’re here to help.