By: Marissa Dalmata

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August 29th, 2017

3 Ways to Curb Costly Health Issues in the Workforce

Healthcare | HR Best Practices

Chronic health conditions in the workforce have increased 25% in the last decade. With 86% of the nation’s health care costs going to treatment of chronic conditions (diabetes, cancer, COPD), that’s an expensive figure for employers.

Increased chronic health conditions may have a more immediate cost impact to self-insured employers, but everyone is subject to the increased absenteeism, employee fatigue, and productivity loss associated with poor health.

Improving workforce health is only accomplished through smarter decisions at the employee level. Here are 3 ways employers can combat chronic conditions by helping employees to make smarter personal health choices.

1. Offer Financial Management Coaching to Increase HDHP Usage

The rise in High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) has arguably aided the increase in chronic conditions. A research study by Truven Health Analytics (click here to read the full report) reveals a correlation between HDHP enrollment and decreased participation in preventative care programs.

Particularly for low wage workers, who are most likely to develop a chronic health condition in their working years, personal health is not prioritized as a regular budgeted expense. Wage increases have outpaced inflation, but have in not kept up with the rising cost of health care. 

However, participation in preventative care programs, which decreases the chances of developing a chronic condition, is still common amongst workers earning more than $70,000 annually.

Increased discretionary income, presumably, allows them to budget for personal health.

Financial management coaches can help employees to build some basic health maintenance expenses into their budgets.  In most cases, preventive services are covered 100%. Employees may just need someone to share the news (over and over and over again).  

2. Increase Access to Telemedicine (you may already be paying for it)

Most health carriers have incorporated telemedicine services into their products, but without someone pushing the service, participation rates still remain low. As a result, many users tend to delay a doctor’s visit until conditions become acute, often leading to a prolonged absence.

Of the 60% of large employers leveraging telehealth, employers are paying roughly 60% of the cost for each visit (roughly $25 for an average visit fee of $40). Most major carriers, such as Aetna, United Health, and Anthem provide access to a telemedicine vendor for some medical care.

By increasing quick access to care through telemedicine, employers can cut down on absenteeism and the associated productivity loss. Eliminating one avoidable absence could make the program more than pay for itself.

3. Offer Health Coaches to Employees (again, you may already be paying for it)

It can be difficult to offer a successful wellness program. If employers don’t have the resources to follow all of the best practices for successful wellness programs, personal health coaches are one of the most effective means of instilling healthy habits.

Again, this option is often a base service already included in carrier health plans. Whether or not employers are applying the best practices to wellness, research shows that personal health coaches still maintain a high success rate in helping employees reach health goals.

For more insights into the global impact of HDHPs on workforce health, please see our white paper: The Chronic Impact of High Deductible Health Plans.

HDHP Utuilization Trends_Free White Paper

About Marissa Dalmata

Marissa is one of Benetech's long-standing client-service reps, with a passion for wellness and elite knowledge of benefits administration.

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Mistakes are expensive, especially when building benefit plans.

We've outlined the 3 most common mistakes employers make when offering benefits in a quick ebook. Get your copy free when you subscribe to our blog.