Category:
Employers

Data Talks. Are You Listening

Data Talks. Are You Listening?

09/18/2018

by Becky Kinder

 

At the World Congress Health Plan Consumer Experience and Retention Summit last week, I spoke alongside two other panelists about the importance of listening to the many ways that data talks. My fellow panelists shared that by listening to data extracted from their call center, they had been able to improve the experience of their members—many of whom had questions about how much of their health plan deductible they had met. A simple analysis of call data allowed them to significantly improve an online experience for their members. When paired with the stat from our 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report that nearly two-thirds of employees are somewhat or very worried about unexpected healthcare needs and associated costs, you get a sense that people can have high levels of anxiety about pre-deductible and unexpected out-of-pocket spending.

Data-listening made simple and actionable

At WEX Health, we work hard every day to help consumers be better prepared—and less worried—about healthcare expenses. One of the ways we do this is by listening to the vast amount of data that’s collected as consumers interact with their benefit accounts.

Data is only useful if you have the right tools to make it actionable.

 

To help our partners leverage data to guide consumers to take the next step, we built powerful analytics tools that reveal useful insights for us and our partners: administrators, employers and consumers.

The data-driven insights found within WEX Health Cloud can be used by our partners to drive a consumer experience that is highly personable and relevant to the next step that a consumer may need to consider. That next step can be small, like contributing through payroll to a health savings account (HSA) or enrolling in a tax-saving dependent care account. Or it can be very daunting—like deciding how and whom to pay when you or a family member succumb to illness. Regardless of where consumers are in their healthcare journey, we want to be there with technology that helps make a difference in their lives.

Using data to personalize outreach to different consumer groups

Listening to data is also important when it comes to understanding how to personalize and reach different consumer segments. For instance, by analyzing aggregate consumers’ interaction with our portals and mobile apps, we found the 35 – 44 age group was more engaged than the 18 – 25 age group. This was a bit of a surprise to some who assumed that the younger population of users would be more likely to use these online tools. Armed with this information, you would want to vary the experience. Online campaigns and engagement may be preferred for the older segment, while outbound phone calls, employer-sponsored events or more interactive experiences may work better for younger audiences. This example is also a good reminder that we must listen to data with “open ears” to avoid missing insights that don’t map to our preconceived notions.

Data inevitably reveals a wealth of ideas that you can translate into action. I’m excited for what WEX Health will uncover as we continue to listen to data, and I’m even more excited about what we will be able to deliver into the hands of consumers through our continuous study. My hope is that we will reduce stress and anxiety and help consumers feel better about their financial wellness.

 

If you have not yet seen the 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report, you can download it using this link. Also, see this recent blog post exploring the ways that WEX Health Cloud capabilities can be used to analyze, segment and effectively engage with consumers.


What Is a QSEHRA? by Becky Kinder

Becky Kinder

Director, Product Management at WEX Health

As a seasoned member of our Product Management team, Becky drives the definition and development of features for several different functional areas of the software, serving as the voice of our partners, employers, and consumers to our development teams. Specific areas of focus include notional accounts, debit card, admin operations, and the consumer and employer portals. Becky has over 15 years’ experience collaborating on the delivery of technology solutions for the IT and healthcare industries. Since joining the team in 2007, she has defined and launched hundreds of features on WEX Health Cloud platforms.

 

3 Ways to Help Your Employees Manage Their Healthcare Expenses

3 Ways to Help Your Employees Manage Their Healthcare Expenses

03/30/2018

 

The United States now spends almost twice as much on healthcare as other advanced industrialized countries, even though just a few decades ago our healthcare spend was closely aligned to that of other countries. As a result of the rising cost of healthcare, changes to employment and benefits laws and the availability of new benefits options, the employee benefits landscape in the U.S. has also been dramatically altered. One in four Americans now report that the cost of healthcare is the biggest concern facing their family, according to a Monmouth University poll. This makes it more important than ever for employers to offer their employees the guidance and tools they need to manage their healthcare plans and costs. Here are three approaches that can be used alone or in combination:

 

  1. Educate your employees about the financial benefits of HSAs, HRAs and FSAs.

Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) are the lowest overall cost option for employees in 65 percent of companies that offer them. They are typically paired with a triple-tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA), a health reimbursement account or a flexible spending account that allows employees to save for out-of-pocket expenses. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that employees save an average of more than $500 per year by selecting a high-deductible health plan.

The HSA contribution limit for 2018 is $3,450 for singles and $6,850 for families, but employees just getting started with an HSA can be encouraged to save as little as one to three percent of their salaries into their HSA. By building a small amount of health savings, they won’t “feel” incremental healthcare costs as sharply and will be better prepared to handle both expected and unexpected medical expenses in the future. Want more information about HSAs and how to communicate their value to your employees? Read our blog post.

 

  1. Provide your employees with benefits-based incentives related to their health and wellness.

Incentivizing employees to take an active role in improving their poor health behaviors can reduce their health risks and subsequently their healthcare costs. One WellSteps study, for example, found that post-implementation of a corporate employee wellness program there was a dramatic difference in the cost of medical care between program participants and non-participants ($3,280 versus $6,177).

Employers can also help their employees save money by offering them benefits-based incentives for participating in a workplace wellness program. Such incentives may include lower office copays, reduced deductibles or monthly premium discounts in exchange for health risk assessment completion, participation in weight-loss or smoking cessation programs or other workplace wellness activities.

 

  1. Give your employees tools to manage and plan for their healthcare expenses.

Analytics programs such as the WEX Health Cloud Consumer Dashboard make it easy for employees to get an aggregate view of all their healthcare claims, debit card transactions, distributions and expenses. Expenses can be viewed by category, individual or provider, and employees can initiate payments for expenses including reimbursements, pay the provider and bill pay.

A corresponding mobile app also lets employees view, budget, plan, analyze and manage their healthcare-related accounts and expenses, helping them more wisely manage their healthcare spending.

Employers and HR managers who facilitate healthcare consumerism among their employees will help them save money on healthcare costs. As a result, employers stand to gain a real competitive advantage over others in their industry—a workforce that is not only easier to hire and retain but also perhaps better informed and even healthier because of the tools you’ve provided.

 

Related Posts:

Employers, These Are the Current Benefits Issues You Need to Know About

What You Need to Know About Data Security and Wearable Devices in the Workplace

Employers, This Is the Comparative Data You Should Use to Evaluate Your Benefit Plans

What Is a QSEHRA?

What Is a QSEHRA?

02/13/2018

by Becky Kinder

 

We know, there are far too many acronyms in healthcare, but QSEHRA is an important one! And since it’s on the newer side, it’s led more than a few people straight to the Google search bar.

 

QSEHRA stands for “Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement” (HR 5447). Also known as “a small business HRA,” it’s becoming a popular employee health coverage option that was established and signed into law in December 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.

 

QSEHRAs have effectively provided small business owners with smarter healthcare options with less overhead and more cost effectiveness. These plans are designed to assist employees with insurance premiums from a plan of their choosing, and in some cases, the HRA will also cover other medical expenses.

 

It’s a great option for small employers: employers set the amount that they can afford to provide employees (as long as it falls within the legal limits) and employees are reimbursed for the expenses the plan allows for.

 

Employers who offer QSHRAs must have fewer than 50 full-time employees and must not offer traditional employer-sponsored group health offerings (including dental or vision) to any of its employees.

 

With its Notice 2017-67, the IRS issued further guidance on QSEHRAs, including the rules and requirements for providing a QSEHRA, the tax consequences of the arrangement and the requirements for providing employees with written notice of the arrangement.

Public comments on the IRS’s guidance were accepted through Jan. 19. The notice also established that the deadline to submit initial notices for 2017 QSEHRAs and 2018 QSEHRA plans beginning Jan. 1, 2018, is Feb. 19, 2018.

 

To learn more about QSEHRAs and the QSEHRA-related guidance issued by the IRS, review our post here.


What Is a QSEHRA? by Becky Kinder

Becky Kinder

Product Manager, WEX Health

As a seasoned member of our Product Management team, Becky drives the definition and development of features for several different functional areas of the software, serving as the voice of our partners, employers, and consumers to our development teams. Specific areas of focus include notional accounts, debit card, admin operations, and the consumer and employer portals. Becky has over 15 years’ experience collaborating on the delivery of technology solutions for the IT and healthcare industries. Since joining the team in 2007, she has defined and launched hundreds of features on WEX Health Cloud platforms.

 

Employers, This Is the Comparative Data You Should Use to Evaluate Your Benefit Plans 

Employers, This Is The Comparative Data You Should Use to Evaluate Your Benefit Plans 

 10/23/2017

 

Just as more patients are taking control of their health information by bringing personal data from their cell phones or activity trackers into their doctor’s appointments, more employers are using mobile, data analytics and personalized consumer portals to engage with employees and evaluate the effectiveness of the benefits plans they offer. Continue reading

5 New Findings That Show More Workers and Employers Are Utilizing HSAs

5 New Findings That Show More Workers and Employers Are Utilizing HSAs

10/16/2017

 

A trio of surveys released by separate organizations in the past month indicate that American employers and workers are utilizing HSAs more often and warming to their benefits, especially as deductibles rise, the excise tax looms and healthcare reform now seems unlikely. Here are five of the latest findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Health Research & Educational Trust, the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mercer:
Continue reading

Tax Reform Is the Next Hot Ticket for Healthcare Regulation

Why Tax Reform Is the Next Hot Ticket for Healthcare Regulation

10/03/2017

In spite of the many headlines and healthcare bills that have centered on repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the healthcare landscape in the United States today looks remarkably similar to the way it did when the ACA was passed seven years ago: The majority of Americans still receive insurance through their employers. Continue reading

Open Enrollment Challenges and Opportunities by Employee Type

Decoding Open Enrollment Challenges and Opportunities by Employee Type

10/03/2017

Open enrollment season is almost upon us: The 2018 open enrollment period will run from Nov. 1, 2017 to Dec. 15, 2017 – representing a shorter enrollment period than in the previous four years. As employers prep for a time that is notorious for being stressful and confusing for employees, it can be helpful to look at the different needs and habits of various employee types so that you can be ready to address their concerns and priorities. It’s also a great time to change the conversation about benefits and to remind employees what they are getting, how much it’s worth and why they need to own their benefits decisions. Continue reading

Younger Workers More Likely to Have Food Allergies

Younger Workers More Likely to Have Food Allergies

Ready for another generational difference?  Try food allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children have increased by about 50% between 1997 and 2011. Experts note that kids are not growing out of their food allergies, so employers need to be prepared as this group is just beginning to enter the workforce.

Currently, there are already approximately 15 million people with food allergies. As employees, many may struggle to manage their symptoms at work. Providing health insurance is an important benefit for allergy suffers as is making reasonable accommodations if necessary for certain employees. Continue reading

Time to Measure Employee Healthcare Engagement

Even though school’s out, employers might want to consider giving employees a test over the summer. Prior to open enrollment, employers can use this time to assess their employees’ readiness for and engagement in their health program. Getting a better understanding of how committed employees are to maintaining their personal health, search for a doctor online, ask about the cost of a procedure, understand key insurance terms, etc. will help determine their level of healthcare consumerism.

According to a 2016 Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study, 73% of people who experience rising health care costs found that their best defense is to try to take better care of themselves. Research has also shown that high consumer engagement correlates to better health status and cost consciousness.

Organizations can use a brief questionnaire to measure their workforce’s level of engagement in several areas to determine what tools they need to better enable and support them in their healthcare efforts. Additionally, it provides companies with benchmarking data that they can use internally as well as externally against other organizations’ employee populations.

Benefit Magazine touched on this topic in a “Grades Aren’t Just for Providers” June article. Measurement tools provide a way for organizations to refine their strategy and execution. The article offers three ways of using measurement data to increase employee motivation and employees’ healthcare consumerism skill sets.

Deploy the Right Consumer Tools

Everyone has a different starting point of their understanding and use of healthcare. Vendors provide all different type of tools to help guide individuals through the enrollment process through to finding a provider. Using engagement data to help deploy the right type of tool, which in some cases may even be making available a health care advocacy counselor for one-one help, can produce more confident decision-making across the company.

Related: HDHPS Create Need for Accurate Price Transparency Tools

Additionally, developing the right set of tools to help employees reach their personal best health can be achieved by using engagement scores to determine which products/tools to use with various groups. For example, for employees with chronic conditions a digital health tool that prompts them to monitor their condition and sends an update to their physician can produce better health outcomes through this type of management system.

Personalize Healthcare Information & Communication

An employer that measures engagement now has the ability to fill-in the gaps and meet employees’ specific needs with tailored communication.

Related: Gain Employee Engagement Through New Communication Strategies

Low engagement scores might suggest that these employees would benefit from frequent, yet short clips of information through video, print and email to encourage awareness and motivation. While highly engaged employees need specific direction and are ready for example, of the details about who to compare costs and quality of knee surgery at three local facilities.

Related: Use Big Data to Create A Personalized Benefits Strategy

Utilize Financial Strategies

Employees’ attitudes and abilities to participate in various healthcare programs will help steer employers toward their workforce achieving these desired outcomes. The move to HDHPs has created the need to focus on engagement efforts that center around understanding current and future healthcare costs.

Related: Use Incentives to Reward Employees for Transparency Tool Participation

Employees will need the right incentive to move beyond their comfort zone and talk about price with their provider, which can greatly impact their out-of-pocket costs. Financial incentives can also be strategically aligned to guide employees through the participation of a range of educational and wellness program activities. Again, engagement scores can inform organization’s where, how and what to incentivize with various groups of employees to encourage reasonable healthy behaviors and participation.

Source:  Benefits Magazine. Grades Aren’t Just for Providers: Measuring Consumerism to Improve Health Care Strategy. June 2017. PP 42-47.

New FDA Guidance Looks to Expedite Process of Bringing Generics to the Market

Recently the FDA released new draft guidance establishing an expedited process for the review and approval of high-priority generic drugs. According to PwC’s Health Research Institute, the June announcement and subsequent guidelines are expected to decrease the standard approval process by months. Meaning some generic drugs have the possibility of getting to the market faster, which should create more competition and potentially lower drug prices.  Continue reading