Trends in Healthcare Every Employer Should Know
A Q&A With Health Benefits Expert Rick Gantt
At Paladina Health, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many thought leaders in healthcare. One thought leader I always learn something new from is Rick Gantt, Area Vice President for Gallagher Benefit Services. I had the chance to sit down with Rick recently to talk healthcare benefit design—drawing on his more than 20 years of experience in healthcare innovation.
What questions from employers do you get most often?
One of the first things I seem to hear a lot is “how do I save money and not cut benefits?” This is a good place to start because an employer shouldn’t see cuts and cost shifting as their only option. What they often don’t realize is that they have more options than they think to get this done.
I also get a lot of “how do I improve care,” which is, again, an excellent place to start. Improving care might mean some costs in the short term, but the potential money saved by having a healthy population and minimizing expensive health episodes can pay off in the long run.
And I also often hear “how do I communicate with my population?” This can be a very serious hurdle for employers, because even the most comprehensive benefits plan won’t work if the employees don’t know about it or understand it.
In your years in healthcare benefit consulting, you’ve worked with organizations of all shapes and sizes. What is one aspect of working with them that you’re especially passionate about?
Great question. I love helping leaders find solutions for their health benefits that address both clinical and financial issues. Those two aspects of benefit design are so closely linked—and, ultimately you can’t solve one without the other in a successful benefit design—it’s impossible to make real progress in healthcare without keeping both in mind.
What are some common opportunities in benefit design that employers need to know about?
Many employers don’t know how many tools they really have at their disposal to improve their benefits package. The two that come to mind are decreasing the barriers to adherence between employees and their healthcare, and contracting directly with providers and networks.
Now, when I say “decrease barriers” to healthcare, I’m talking about designing a benefit plan that encourages employees to adhere to treatment. Introducing on-site services—such as an on-site pharmacy is an excellent way to ensure your employees are getting the medications they need.
And negotiating directly with the healthcare system often means fewer surprises for you when you see the bill for an insurance claim. When you work directly with your provider, it’s easier to put together a high-value network that’s built to the needs of your employees. Alignment is so much easier to achieve when there’s no middle-man. Direct contracts are going to continue getting more popular over the next decade or so because they tend to give employees better access to more affordable care.
Some employers are even going as far as implementing direct contracts with domestic providers around the country and allow their employees to travel to those providers for key procedures. Sometimes going to the next state over can change the prices you’re looking at.
How do you suggest employers try to overcome the hurdle of an employee population that’s unengaged with their benefits?
Communication, communication, communication. It’s all too often that employees don’t understand or connect to their benefits.
It can be tricky to get an unengaged population to really take ownership of their health and their health benefits, so it’s important to communicate with them often, and make sure you’re prepared to answer their questions. If they don’t understand something about their benefits, then the person they ask should be informed. People don’t like getting the runaround, so make sure you have the answers they’re looking for.
Employers should be driving education through their benefit design and through whatever benefit enhancements, such as Paladina Health, they’ve included in their plan.
In your experience, what is a win-win-win scenario in health benefits?
Better care and better health = better life.
It really is that simple. A healthy employee population seems to make improvements for a company across the board. Healthy people miss fewer days of work and if they have the kind of access that Paladina Health offers, their issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently. That builds trust between all parties: employer, employee and physician.
Gantt used some healthcare terminology that may not be common knowledge, so here are a few definitions just to make sure everyone is on the same page.
A pharmacy that is built on or near the same plot as the business it serves, giving employees convenient access to the facility.
A contract that directly links the facility or provider network with an employer, boosting access to their services for the employee population.
This is another form of a direct contract that connects employees to a particular network/facility in the country that will offer a certain list of services. This process is often used when a certain treatment is significantly more affordable at another place in the country.
For more information on benefit design and how Paladina Health can make a real difference in your healthcare costs, check out this webinar on health insurance claims data.