Cost should no longer be a barrier to offering a workplace healthcare proposition, says Stephen Duff, managing director of HSF health plan
One of the major barriers for organisations when considering introducing some form of employee healthcare has historically been that of significant cost to the business.
Many are concerned that they will introduce a proposition that will be an increasing burden round their necks as time goes by: in essence they might agree to and be happy with the initial price of a benefit, but then find this steadily increasing each and every year, forcing them back into the whole process of tendering once more.
At HSF we strongly believe in helping employers by staying as near as possible to the agreed price: premium levels are rarely increased unless an external element beyond our control – for example IPT (Insurance Premium Tax) comes into play. This can be evidenced by the fact that we have only had two price increases since 2006.
Employees in our schemes can claim as much of the benefit they need up to their limit each and every year without being penalised – and if their company pays for a lower level of care than they want, they can switch levels and pay the remainder of the cost via payroll.
So why is this so important? Well, we are providing schemes that help people with their everyday healthcare – at the same time as removing the cost barrier for employers.
The ‘everyday’ is more important now than ever – increasingly, companies are going to have to take more responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their employees, simply because the budgets that the NHS have are growing, but the demands are so much greater. When it comes to things like accessing a GP, there can be a long wait: we hear every day that GPs are under huge pressure to provide services against an impossible budget. Worryingly, the average projected time to see a GP is likely to lengthen over the next 12 months.
Increasingly people do their own research on their illnesses rather than wait for a GP – a method that could backfire. However, all the sites we use and recommend are validated and updated on a regular basis.
By giving employees access to elements of healthcare such as a GP advice line, counselling, a range of health benefit lines, and medical information, you are allowing them an immediate point of contact with necessary medical services.
For example, if an employee is off sick on a Monday, and they can’t see a GP until the Thursday, they are not necessarily sure if they are able to go to work. They may call in sick and take three or four days off to see the GP, who might give them medication and confirm they can, in fact, go to work. Had they had access to a GP through their employer, even on the phone or online, the employer would not have had to lose three days of work.
If you could have access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day 7 days a week that’s got to be a good thing, and if employers can facilitate that, the cost to them is tiny – but their savings can be enormous.
We need to now make employers aware that they do not need to invest in high-expense health schemes for an entire workforce: the thing that matters is giving employees immediate access to professional consultation, which can be done very cheaply.
And even with inexpensive access to things like helplines, there is a huge employee engagement factor, as these products can also be used by partners and parents seeking advice about children’s’ illnesses.
It all adds up to time they don’t have to take off work, and for the employee knowing that they have that immediacy of access is also a factor in stress reduction.
Organisations can provide the access for employees very cheaply, and very easily, and in doing so, save a lot of lost production.