Innovative tools put preventive health care in employees’ hands

In an increasingly competitive labor market, there’s a desire to keep employees healthy, happy and productive. Those who utilize the preventive health care offered by their employers and actively manage their health are healthier in the long run. Unfortunately, many employees don’t know what tools are available to help them manage their care.

“Health insurance covers more these days than most employees think it does and often at a lower price than expected,” says Bill Tuthill, VP of Market Strategy, Federal Markets, at Highmark, Inc. “There are tools that offer easier access to care, but employers need to help employees understand what they have available to them.”

Changing technology, as well as individuals’ comfort with it, has enabled health care plans to offer greater access to health care services, often through mobile devices. Now, employees increasingly are asking for their health plans to offer services that make it easier for them to manage their conditions independently.

Smart Business spoke with Tuthill about changes to health plans that have created greater access to preventive care, and what can be done to help employees better leverage those options.

What common benefits offered through health plans might employees miss?

Nearly all plans cover the basics, such as doctor and hospital visits, prescription drugs, dental and vision. But a lot of people don’t realize that preventive care such as checkups, mammograms and certain cancer screenings are not only covered but covered completely. Even though most plans have fully covered these benefits for over 10 years, we still see too many people not taking advantage of them.

Employer-sponsored health care plans give people options for engaging with their health plan. There are multiple, user-friendly methods such as live customer service representatives, better websites and new apps for mobile devices. The technology puts all the information a person needs about their plan right at their fingertips, accessible 24/7. That could include everything from a person’s virtual ID card to their claims history,  and tools to find doctors and confirm coverage. 

The big trend we’ve seen over the past three years is more people managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes or COPD, through tools provided by their health insurer and connected to their mobile device. Patients can now track their blood glucose levels and other biometrics and share that data with their health care provider, without ever having to leave their house. Removing that barrier to care has helped a lot of our members more easily stay on top of their conditions.

Each employer plan offers different tools, so employees, especially those managing chronic conditions, should check which tools might be available.

What are some increasingly requested tools and benefits?

The health care industry has, for many years, hoped that beneficiaries would utilize virtual care offerings that allow them to see their doctor or get help with an urgent health situation without leaving their house. The pandemic created the opportunity for many to try the services for the first time since in-person visitations became a challenge. Lots of people tried them, many liked them and today they continue to use them, often at the same or lower cost than in-person care. 

Still, what employees most want from their health insurance coverage is having their primary care doctor in network, their local hospital covered and, when something happens, someone available to answer their questions. Employers should check the boxes on new technologies that can reduce employee medical costs and improve health outcomes, but also make sure that their plan provides access to the doctors and hospitals that employees want.

INSIGHTS Health Care is brought to you by Highmark, Inc.

Bill Tuthill

VP of Market Strategy, Federal Markets
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