9 creative ways to reduce healthcare cost

Updated: Feb 18

According to this 2016 press release published by SHRM, average cost of employee healthcare makes up 7.6 percent of a company’s annual operating budget. Trends have shown that 2019 is no different as healthcare cost is expected to continue to rise, making healthcare coverage one of the most desired benefits. To stay relevant and competitive, employers are losing sleep over how to find ways to cover the cost of providing health coverage for their employees and their families. We present creative, cost-effective ways that can significantly reduce the cost of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage and still meet the needs of employees.

Shop around for brokers who can get you the best value for your money

Brokers have the ability to compare plans and find the one that best meets your company's needs while saving you money. Seasoned brokers can sometimes customize your own unique plan that fits within your budget. Your best bet, especially if you don't have corporate buying power, is to work with an experienced local broker who knows how to customize benefit packages that deliver on both cost and service range.

Encourage and reward healthy lifestyles

There are a couple of ways to encourage employees to embrace healthy lifestyles that eventually improve quality of life, keep employees healthier and ultimately save money in the long run. Money is spent upfront on preventive care rather than on disease management after the fact. Some employers offer on-sight gyms, negotiated special gym membership rates, gym discount vouchers and free smoking cessation classes/aid.

Blue Cross Blue Shield offers Blue365, a free program for participating BCBS companies that offers 20 to 40% discounts on gym memberships, home workout equipment, wearable devices like fitbit, weight loss programs, home meal deliveries, vacation packages, hotel rooms, cell phone plans and pet insurance.

Encourage and reward wellness initiatives

Some employers are paying employees bonuses to encourage them to have routine annual wellness checks such as mammograms, cardiac stress testing, pap smears, urology exams, and diagnostic labs for cholesterol and other indicators of heart disease. The goal is to minimize the cost of managing disease conditions by "catching" them early, thereby saving money that would have been spent if diagnosis had been delayed.

Reward employees who get coverage through their spouse's employer

One way some employers are saving money is to reward employees who get coverage through their spouse's employer. Average bonus amount being offered is about $100 per month, enough incentive to motivate employees to make that choice. This represents huge savings for employers as the burden of coverage in the event of an illness or hospitalization is shifted to the spouse's employer.

Contract with direct primary care providers

Contracting with direct primary care providers to provide services at reduced prices is a great way for both employers and employees to save money. By negotiating upfront, employers can save on their cost per employee while employees pay a reduced premium and copay. Direct primary care models are gaining popularity and is being vigorously pushed by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Contract with diagnostic imaging providers

This is a no-brainer. It is well established that outpatient imaging performed by an independent diagnostic testing facility (IDTF) can be 30 to 70% cheaper than hospital-based imaging. Contracting directly with imaging providers empowers employers to provide imaging services for their employees without breaking the bank. Employees also save considerably on their copay since there is a significant difference between rates offered by hospital-based or hospital-affiliated imaging centers and that offered by independent testing facilities.

Offer Yoga and Massage days to reduce stress

This may sound like an expensive venture but it costs less than you imagine. Not only will your employees love you for it, you will also see the positive effect on your work environment and productivity. It doesn't even have to be a weekly thing. Providing a monthly or bi-weekly Yoga or massage session will go a long way to help reduce stress (maybe even prevent or reduce the risk of hypertension, strokes and heart attacks) as well as earn you some "loyalty miles" with your employees.

Use urgent care centers instead of hospital emergency rooms

Using urgent care centers are a great way to reduce costs on non-life threatening emergencies that cannot wait till next day to book a visit with the primary doctor. A visit to the ER does not come cheap and many times not much is done anyway, except in life-threatening situations that require immediate intervention. Urgent care centers typically refer patients to a hospital emergency room if they determine that the patient will be better helped in a hospital setting. Contracting with urgent care centers significantly saves money for both employers and employees.

Borrow the idea for the Capital one Commercial

You've seen the Capital one Spark Card commercial where the business owner used his cashback to provide health insurance for his staff. You're going to make purchases anyway, so why not take advantage of your rewards to fund healthcare coverage for your staff?

There's no doubt that the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance is becoming prohibitive. The fact remains though that there are many benefits for employers who choose to provide health insurance coverage to employees. In the long run the benefits far outweigh the cost.