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Monday, May 22 2023

During times of economic uncertainty, the choices employers make about their benefits offerings can have long-lasting effects on their finances, employee expectations, and ability to attract and retain talent. This can impact the overall health of the organization.

To ensure ongoing success, employers should carefully assess all areas of operations, including employee benefits. Focusing on this specific aspect can reveal opportunities for cost savings that could significantly affect the organization's bottom line.

Here are some practical strategies employers can implement now to optimize their benefits program and support operations during challenging times.

Plan Design Re-Evaluation
Many employers are using this time to reassess their health plan designs and offerings to increase cost-effectiveness. Some are switching to alternatively-funded health plans, while others are using health reimbursement arrangements or health savings accounts to encourage employees to make financially wise healthcare decisions. Offering high and low benefits options to meet the needs of a diverse workforce is imperative is preferred over a one-size-fits-all plan design.

Improve Employee Communications
Increasing employee healthcare literacy can lead to significant cost savings, as informed employees are more likely to make cost-effective healthcare decisions. This makes it a great strategy for supporting operations in a slow-growth economy.

By helping employees avoid unnecessary out-of-network care and guiding them to low-cost outpatient and inpatient options, you can reduce overall medical expenses for both the employer and employee.

Many employers are also creating easy-to-use benefits portals to educate employees and provide important information such as health plan options, forms, enrollment calendars, and links to additional healthcare resources.

Bolster Your Employee Benefits Package
During an economic downturn, employers' benefits budgets often decrease, leaving fewer resources for employee benefits when needs are high. With limited resources, your organization can adapt its benefits offerings to meet employee needs by expanding mental health support, enhancing leave options, and providing financial wellness resources. Additionally, expanding voluntary benefits can effectively meet employee needs without increasing costs.

By thinking creatively and using cost-effective employee benefits, you can maintain the quality of your offerings while freeing up funds for other areas that need support during an economic slowdown.

Ask Your Benefits Broker for Help
One effective way to reduce healthcare costs is to utilize the expertise of your benefits broker. Ask them to thoroughly analyze your organization's benefits expenses and suggest ways to save money. They may find simple solutions that won't negatively affect your employees' experience. A good broker should have a range of cost-saving options for employers to consider.

We offer no-cost, healthplan evaluations. Please contact Wendee Allen for further details at 425-314-0988.

Sunday, May 07 2023

What are Association Health Plans?

Association health plans (AHPs) are a type of group health insurance that allows small businesses, freelancers, and self-employed individuals to join together and access the benefits and savings of large group health plans. AHPs are offered by associations that are formed based on a common profession, industry, or geographic area. AHPs can provide lower premiums, more flexibility, and better negotiation power for their members.

How do AHPs work?

AHPs work by pooling together multiple employers and individuals into a single large group health plan. By doing so, AHPs can avoid some of the regulations and costs that apply to small group and individual health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For example, AHPs can design their own benefit packages without having to cover all the essential health benefits required by the ACA. AHPs can also negotiate better rates with insurers and providers, or even self-insure to lower their administrative expenses and avoid health insurance taxes.

Who can join an AHP?
To join an AHP, you must be a member of an association that meets certain criteria. The association must have a formal organizational structure, be controlled by its members, and have a commonality of interest among its members. The association must also exist for a purpose other than offering health insurance, such as promoting the interests of its industry or profession. The association must not discriminate against any member based on their health status or claims history.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of AHPs?

The main advantage of AHPs is that they can offer lower premiums and more choices for their members. AHPs can also provide more stability and continuity for members who may change jobs or locations frequently. AHPs can also foster a sense of community and solidarity among members who share a common interest or identity.

The main disadvantage of AHPs is that they may not provide adequate coverage or protection for their members. AHPs may exclude or limit some benefits that are essential for some people, such as maternity care, mental health services, or prescription drugs. AHPs may also vary in quality and reliability depending on the association's governance and financial management. AHPs may also face legal challenges from state regulators or other stakeholders who oppose their expansion.

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