Health cash plans can cover all kinds of health needs – as well as reducing absenteeism, says Stephen Duff, managing director at HSF health plan
When choosing a health cash plan, employers tend to look for those components that can help their employees on a day-to-day basis, such as dental and optical provision.
These are the things that they look for initially – but there is also a wide range of healthcare cover available through a health cash plan that may not spring to mind immediately for employers: for example, personal accident cover, or cover for a night spent in hospital. These benefits are key for employees, especially for those in lower-paid jobs, where illness and absence can directly affect income.
Protection such as this may not be the first thing in the company’s thoughts when they are looking for healthcare, but cash plans provide a broad range of things, many of which are still heavily favoured by employees.
An element of our cash plan that has seen considerable growth over the past 12 months is HSF Assist, which provides a range of helplines, including the GP advice line, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The virtual doctor and online prescription services are also continuing to increase in popularity.
This popularity is representative of a growing need for employers to cater for mental health issues in their workplace healthcare offerings.
The counselling service is one that is used increasingly, and it is of key importance, not just at launch but throughout the scheme, to make employees aware of all the options they have access to.
For many employees, speaking to somebody at the other end of the phone is preferable to sitting in front of a GP or counsellor – the anonymity and confidentiality is important to them.
The benefit of the helpline is that they don’t have to go through their employer at all – they can access it whenever they need it.
FILLING THE NHS GAP
Companies in future will have to take a greater responsibility for the healthcare of their employees. Some companies already understand this duty, however others still expect the NHS to have the capacity: but the reality is that as the demands for health services grow, the budgets are being tightened. The seven-day health service announced in the Summer Budget is desirable, but the capacity isn’t there.
That’s why the employer must understand that if they can give access to their employees to better healthcare, and in particular speedy access to a GP, the results will be tangible for their organisation. Our research shows that 70% of calls to our GP advice line result in a course of action that doesn’t require a doctor’s appointment.
In taking a greater interest in giving employees better and quicker access to healthcare, the benefit for staff is clear – but it is also in the interests of the company.
COSTS AND SAVINGS
Currently, employers can offer a basic cash plan for £1 per employee per week, which includes HSF Assist, as well as the dental and optical plans, and personal accident cover – and more.
In terms of the time employees have to wait and inevitably take off work for a single GP consultation, the saving can be considerable – so there’s bound to be a reduction in the cost of absence. A virtual GP or advice line can also help someone who isn’t well decide if they need to be in work or not – it’s almost like having an in-house doctor.
The feedback HSF gets about the cash plan also indicates that it increases employee engagement and productivity, firstly because it shows that the employer cares about the people that work for the company, and secondly because it gives peace of mind to employees that their health is looked after.
Being able to add dependents into the plan at no additional cost also means that everyone in an employee’s family can benefit.
THE KEY HEALTH MESSAGE
The message that employers must hear is that the current health service cannot cater effectively for the capacity of demand, and that to look after people, things will need to change over a short period of time.
Health cash plans have a very small cost to employers compared to sickness absence and lost productivity – and importantly, can give employees the confidence that their health and that of their loved ones is being looked after.