Benefits, HR News & Trends

2012 Health Care Survey Lays Out 3 Ways For Employers to Rein In Costs

Photo illustration by Dreamstime.

Aon Hewitt’s released their 2012 Health Care Survey and provided their findings and reactions to employers’ planned tactics to rein in costs.

It lays out three choices for employers:

  • They can stay the course and try to figure out how to balance 8–9 percent medical cost trend increases against what surely will soon become an impossibility: more cost-sharing with employees.
  • They can pay, essentially pay their fines and get out of Dodge (i.e., no longer offer health care benefits); or,
  • They can play differently by taking a harder line with employees about their health while tiering their approach to health care benefits, sending some employees on to the exchanges and providing a finite cash figure for others to spend themselves.

Managers, your turn at bat

Look out, managers. In the next three to five years, employers are looking to you to put a dent in the never-ending struggle to motivate participants to change behavior.

Nearly 50 percent report they’ll tie managers’ performance goals to wellness success or participation. That’s a huge but potentially hazardous shift if employers don’t thoroughly detail what’s expected, and what’s acceptable, and then provide the necessary support.

Managers on the line for better performance often resort to what’s most expedient. We’ve seen it before. done well, managers will receive the message that tending to individual and collective well-being is as much a business objective as tending to their P&L.

Interestingly, the connection to performance stops short at the leadership gates. Only 27 percent have visible senior and business unit leadership support in place today and 36 percent may add it while they look to managers to do some heavy lifting.

Consumer mindset lags

The consumer (aka, the employee) may get top billing when employers consider habit change. Not so when these same employers consider program design or communication approach. The Aon Hewitt survey finds that most employers don’t seek employee opinion on benefit design features (72 percent), incentives and consequences (74 percent), change management approach (76 percent) or communication strategy (55 percent), among other items.

Employers have long struggled with the value proposition for focus groups, surveys and other ways to glean employee opinion. In their minds, the cost, time and labor involved outweigh the perceived value. Employees hold the key to why they read what they read, why they enroll in what they do, why they respond to certain carrots and not to others.

So, while employers are getting savvy to consumer marketing (55 percent plan to incorporate in the next three to five years), they’re seriously lagging when it comes to gathering consumer feedback.

You can download the full 2012 Health Care Survey here.

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s free-range communication blog.

Fran Melmed is an award-winning HR communications consultant specializing in workplace wellness and health care consumerism. Prior to founding context communication consulting llc context communication, Fran worked at Hewitt Associates in their Talent and Organizational Change and Communication practices in the U.S. and U.K. Contact her at fran@contextcommunication.com, and follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/femelmed.