It’s not enough to give your employees the right health plan if they don’t understand it. An online employee portal or self-service site can help — if employees are motivated to use it. You put a lot of time, effort and money into choosing and purchasing the right health benefit plans for your employees. However, they can’t get the maximum benefit from these plans if they don’t understand the kinds of coverage or assistance available to them. Also, your plan may end up costing you more at renewal if employees don’t learn enough to choose the most cost-effective provider and health care options.
According to the Office of the Actuary at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health care spending in the United States will grow at an average annual rate of 5.8 percent from 2015 through 2025, or 1.3 percentage points higher than the expected annual increase in the gross domestic product.
Because of rapidly rising costs, many employers are searching for ways to motivate employees to make better and more cost-effective healthcare decisions.
That’s a reason why employee on-line portal or self-service sites are becoming more popular. Insurance carriers are increasingly relying on them to deliver benefit information, wellness programming and claims information to their members. The portals also are an easy way for carriers and employers to post information about government regulation compliance.
If your employees are not signing up for the portal and reading information about their plan, they’re likely not getting the most value from their plan. They might not know about free preventive services, for instance. Without this kind of information, they could choose an out-of-network provider that will cost them more. Some portals have wellness programs, which keep employer/employee costs down when employees stay healthy.
Self-service sites are also cost-effective and environmentally friendly — substantially reducing paper usage. Employees who are familiar with Amazon or social media sites will have a short learning curve.
Each carrier’s portal has different features, so it’s important to include consideration of what carriers offer with their portals in your selection of a health benefit plan.
To help employees integrate your carrier’s self-service portal into their health benefits program, encourage them to:
- Learn about benefits: They can view detailed information about benefits and promptly find out what services are covered, what the deductible is and much more.
- Find a provider: If your plan is a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), employees will get discounts on services when they use a provider that’s in network. Your self-service site should have a list of providers and specialists in your area.
- Access information any time of the day: No need to wait until office hours to find out if the plan covers a particular condition or service. All the information is in one place and specific to the plan.
- Check claims: See if a claim was approved or denied.
- Review and pay bills: Many self-service sites provide online bill payment and maintain a list of receipts.
- Make updates to personal information: It’s important to keep contact and other important information up to date. It’s easy to do online.
- Seek advice: When an employee or family member has a health issue, it’s comforting to get individual guidance. Most carriers provide professional advice on what to do when there’s a serious illness — such as who to go to for a second opinion or where to get care from a provider rated as a Center of Excellence. These services can save money and increase the chances of a better outcome. These advisors also can help employees understand their diagnosis or find a specialized doctor.
- Print or order ID cards: New or replacement ID cards, for doctor visits, lab work or specialist consultations, are easily obtained online.
- Get in touch with a doctor by phone, computer or tablet: This service goes by many names — teledoc, telehealth or telemedicine are a few. All are free or low-cost ways to talk to a board-certified physician electronically any time of the day. Some programs even give the physicians permission to prescribe medications.
- Participate in a wellness program: The National Association of Health Underwriters reports that up to 70 percent of health care spending is attributed to behavioral and lifestyle choices. Often, an online health assessment at the portal can be used by the insurance provider to direct employees to information about how to make better lifestyle decisions. Some of these wellness programs offer cash incentives for participants.