How to Get Employees to Be Smart Health Care Consumers

To make smart health care decisions you have to be a savvy consumer. Your employees can save money by shopping around and comparing prices, the same way they would for other purchases. So what can you do to help guide your employees to make sound decisions? You can start by educating them.
Now this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Being a smart health care consumer takes effort. Your employees will need to do some research to find providers who will save them money. And you’ll need to do some research to find the tools employees can use to point them in the right direction.

During annual enrollment:

  • Open employees’ eyes to the fact that not all providers cost the same. In fact, costs can be dramatically different among providers, even though the quality is the same.
  • Make sure employees understand the cost they pay under a copay plan is much lower than the “real” retail cost.
  • Strongly encourage the use of “health plan comparison” or “run your own scenario” tools.
  • If employees are moving from a copay plan to a high deductible plan that requires them to pay the full retail cost:
    • Provide direct links to your prescription administrator’s site where they can find average retail costs.
    • Tell them to take their list of monthly prescriptions to their local pharmacy and ask for the current retail cost. (Prescription out-of-pocket costs are usually the biggest shock to new enrollees in high deductible plans.)
    • Offer links to health plan service/procedure estimators.
    • Suggest they reach out to their caregivers to determine the full retail cost for services.

After annual enrollment

  • Continue to educate employees throughout the year on topics including:
    • Asking health care providers questions.
    • Requesting generics versus brand-name drugs.
    • Using provider selection tools on your health care administrator’s website.
    • Choosing urgent care versus emergency room care.
  • Be sure to use a variety of communication vehicles such as newsletter articles, blog postings, brown bag meetings, Q&A forums or one-on-one coaching sessions.

The better employees understand how to access and use their plan, the more positive they’ll feel about the plan, and the more money they can save. They may not become smart health care consumers overnight…but knowing where to go to get reliable information is a good first step.