Bettering Health Plan Management Through Modern Healthcare Technology

Taking advantage of modern technology is part of the reason why Hierl excels in providing the best results for our clients. In this installment of CenterStage, we asked our Executive Vice President, Scott Smeaton, to give an in-depth overview of how we use our technological resources to create customized, high-quality, low-cost health plans for our clients.

Technology and Data

There are three steps to developing plans for our clients, when using technology and data. The first step is to identify the client’s cost drivers within their health program(s). For example, we may look at a client’s claims data and find their highest dollar claims are musculoskeletal – such as hip and knee replacements – identifying whether health plan members are going to the higher cost, lower quality provider. These are becoming much more prevalent and are among most plans top cost drivers. With the technology at Hierl, we can import our client’s data – medical and prescription claims and health screening results from wellness – and aggregate it into one technology platform. Doing so, will help keep our clients’ members updated on physician requests and advice.

Competitive Advantage

The second step beyond identifying our client’s cost drivers is to implement management programs and plan designs to address their health plan issues. This kind of technology is newer to the healthcare industry. It can be a great resource and tool that larger employers can use to their advantage. Think about Netflix. They analyze their viewer’s behaviors and apply predictive modeling in a way that they know what their viewers like to watch and when they want to watch it, incorporating those preferences into the ads their customers see. That kind of technology is coming to healthcare, allowing us to look at all claims and behaviors and predict where the next large claim will come from. This helps plan administrators fully understand what’s driving their health plan costs and do something about it through plan design changes, provider relations and contracting, member incentives, and member education and engagement.

Employee Betterment

After identifying areas that can be improved upon and creating a plan to address these cost drivers as discussed above, our third and final step is to create a communication program that will engage and educate employees. Our goal is to help employees understand that, within a healthcare system, there are some providers who perform better than others and cost less. When we give employees the tools and resources they need to be better healthcare consumers, everyone wins. Employer sponsored health plans have lower overall costs. This means their employees and their families lower their out-of-pocket costs, save healthcare dollars for the future, and have better outcomes. Not to mention that a happier, healthier employee is also a more productive employee at work and in the community. Hierl accomplishes this with our “Why Matters” program, which is a custom designed, year-round member education and communication program using a variety of mediums to reach our clients’ members. Through Why Matters, Hierl builds a custom (intranet) and mobile app for our clients to access basic information about their benefits 24/7. Think of it as a homepage to one of your favorite websites that you bookmark in your browser. This is where your members go to research, make decisions, educate themselves on your benefit offerings and how to be a better healthcare consumer. Based on the cost drivers identified through the process above we build out a 12-month calendar of communication materials specifically addressing the areas we’ve identified as a concern and can be delivered via paper, email, mobile app, etc.

Hierl strives to bring our clients the best possible solutions that result in high-quality, low-cost benefits. If you think your company needs to take this step toward improvement, please contact Scott Smeaton at 920.921.5921 or send him an email at ssmeaton@hierl.com.


CenterStage: Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Distraction is Deadly: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

In 2015 alone, 3,477 people have died and another 391,000 have been injured due to distracted driving.

Not only is distracted driving hazardous to your life, but it can negatively impact the drivers’ lives that surround you. Distracted Driving Awareness Month is an effort by the National Safety Council to help recognize and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving. In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, this month’s CenterStage features Cathleen Christensen, Vice President of Property & Casualty at Hierl Insurance, who will provide safe driving practices and how companies can ensure their employees are using them.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is a public health issue that affects us all. According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, adjusting stereo, entertainment or navigation systems. You cannot drive safely unless your attention is fully focused on the road ahead of you, any activity that you partake in simultaneously provides a distraction and increases the risk of a crash.

Awareness for Awareness

Bringing awareness to distracted driving is essentially bringing awareness to awareness. There are three main types of distraction:

  1. Visual – taking your eyes off the road
  2. Cognitive – taking your mind off driving
  3. Manual – taking your hands off the wheel

These days, it’s so easy to be a distracted driver – from texting, to talking on the phone, or even using a navigation system. The biggest one, texting, is especially dangerous because it involves committing all three types of distraction. Some studies even say texting and driving is worse than driving under the influence. So, how can you keep your employees aware while driving?

“Several studies believe, as well as myself, that employers should prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages
workers to text and drive.”

– Cathleen Christensen, VP of Property & Casualty at Hierl

But how can you really get your employees to commit to your ‘No Distracted Driving’ policy? It’s as easy as providing education and solutions. Sometimes, it’s especially effective to have your employees sign a contract stating if they need to use any form of a hand-held device, they must pull over to the side of the road. Remind your employees to drive with their devices off or on silent to keep the urge under control. Plus, several cellular devices have come out with ways to set phones to driving mode, leaving a custom voicemail to anyone who calls while an employee/employer is driving, letting the caller know they will call the caller back later.

Companies suffer from great financial loss yearly due to distracted driving. By putting these safe driving practices in place, you will save lives AND money. If you’d like to get more help on implementing a safe driving policy within your workplace, please contact Cathleen at 920.921.5921.


Getting to Know HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs

This month’s CenterStage features Hierl Benefit Advisor, Tonya Bahr, discussing the differences, similarities, and customizations of HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) versus FSAs (Flexible Savings Accounts), as well as how HRAs (Health Reimbursement Arrangements) may be a great add-on.

About Tonya

Tonya Bahr has 15 years of experience in human resources and benefits. Throughout her HR career, Tonya has been involved in benefit plan designs, wellness program implementations, and open enrollment facilitation. She has a passion for educating employees and business owners on benefit options, helping them make decisions that best fit their personal and financial objectives.

So, which is better for you: a FSA or a HSA?

Comparing the Differences

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) are two popular ways employers can help their employees pay for out of pocket expenses associated with their healthcare costs. Both offer pre-tax advantages, which make them attractive. However, the names of these accounts really do distinguish their purposes. One is a SAVINGS account while the other is a SPENDING account.

Here are some tips and advice Tonya says to keep in mind when choosing between an HSA or FSA:

1.    Unlike the FSA, an HSA is portable and flexible. You can never lose the money in the account (both employee and employer contributions) so if you change jobs, change plan types, or don’t use the money in a given year, it all goes with you. The amount you can contribute toward an HSA is greater and the balance in the account earns interest.

2.    With an FSA, you can use the entire contribution amount upfront even if you haven’t contributed the full amount.

3.    With an HSA, you can only use the money actually in the account, but the FSA allows you to use the full contribution amount elected.

4.    You cannot contribute to an HSA and a full FSA at the same time. However, you can have an HSA and Limited FSA. Limited FSAs can only be used toward dental and vision expenses; whereas HSAs and full FSAs can be used toward medical, prescription, dental, and vision. HSA dollars can also be used to pay Cobra premiums, Long Term Care premiums, and Medicare premiums. Once an individual reaches age 65, money in an HSA can be spent on anything. The money is no longer earmarked for qualified medical expenses.

5.    HSAs are only available with High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP). HDHPs can seem a little intimidating at first given employees are responsible for the deductible before copays apply. However, they offer lower premiums, which is money in an employee’s pocket, which can in turn be used to start funding an HSA.

 

HRAs

Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) are a vehicle used to offset increased plan design changes and employee’s out of pocket responsibility. Under an HRA, an employer purchases a plan design (typically a higher deducible option or out of pocket maximum), but they offer their employees a different plan. The difference is paid by the HRA. Employees submit their claims to a third party who manages the HRA and then in turn sends the employee funds to cover the cost of care. This type of scenario can work well for groups that have a healthier population and don’t experience high claim costs.

The savings is in the premium reduction for going with a higher deductible option and the gamble that employees won’t meet the limits of the HRA. Employers take on a risk with this type of arrangement because if a lot of members experience high claims and meet the HRA limits, the employer is the one paying to fund the HRA.

To conclude, employers can have an HRA with either an FSA or an HSA, but there are restrictions on how far down a qualified HDHP can go and still be HSA-qualified. Tonya’s suggestion is to avoid this risk by contacting her and discussing your options. You can contact Tonya Bahr at 920.921.5921 for more information.

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CenterStage: Effective Employee Benefit Communications

Welcome to our very first CenterStage of 2018! We hope you all had a warm, happy New Year. In this month’s CenterStage, we spoke with Tonya Bahr and Scott Seaton on some helpful tips on “Effective Employee Benefit Communications”.

It is not a one size fits all approach, each group needs to take a look at their population and decide what is best for them.”  -Tonya Bahr, Hierl Employee Benefit Advisor.

  • Emails are efficient for targeting professional staff, especially companies that have companywide email addresses.
  • Letters or texts are the best way to communicate with field or labor employees.
  • A popular way to communicate is by meeting, whether it be a webinar or seminar. Often, companies will mandate that their employees attend informational sessions discussing benefits offered. This allows our clients to efficiently communicate a consistent message out to employees to help understand their benefits.

Paper VS Digital communications

Okay, not really because it’s not a competition!

An online approach works really well for employees but it is also very important for the spouses to be engaged as well. We typically follow up the meetings with a deliverable the employee can bring home to their spouse. This not only allows the spouse to learn more about the benefits available to them, but it also reinforces what was covered in the meeting for the employee.”

-Tonya Bahr

Potential Impact of Good Communication

Good things come to those who wait…. except when understanding your benefits. The sooner employees become educated on why they have unique benefits, the sooner they will put them to use!

Those who don’t understand benefits, don’t utilize them correctly. They are not good consumers of health care.” – Scott Smeaton, Hierl Executive Vice President.

It is important to understand your employee benefits not only for your own health reasons, but also so that you are able to recognize why your employer offers the unique benefits they do.

What differentiates Hierl and how they help effectively communicate benefits?

At Hierl, we look at each client as unique. What works best for one may not be ideal for another. It’s about really being able to understand the culture and provide different communication options such as presentations, visuals, emails, and website.

Hierl shines when it comes to giving employers/employees access to all forms of communication, specifically in the communication campaigns run throughout the year. By assessing the necessary points to communicate and then building quarterly and monthly campaigns around these objectives, Hierl brings unique, strategic solutions to explaining employee benefits. The evidence of communication strategies at work is apparent in the results gathered from clients.

One of the ways companies can measure the success of their program is to measure employee satisfaction. By measuring employee satisfaction after communication campaigns, findings show that the more regularly benefits are communicated, the higher employee satisfaction goes up!” – Scott Smeaton

3 Key Points on Communicating Benefits

  1. Keep it simple- (no explanation needed!)
  2. Try different avenues- one person may prefer email while another prefers paper
  3. Communicate often- benefits communication should take place all year long

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2017 and was updated in January 2018 for accuracy.