Confronting the issue of health affordability for employees

Today, there’s plenty to read on the importance of employee wellbeing. While this is a positive thing, the conversation HR should be having with staff, is how hard they are finding it to access and pay for everyday healthcare needs.

It’s getting harder for employees to get an appointment for everyday healthcare needs.  In some areas the situation is so bad that overseas charities are stepping in to provide basic care.  A situation the British Dental Association describes as an “international disgrace.”  In a similar acknowledgement of how long wait times to see a doctor have become, the Royal College of GPs is encouraging people to consult a pharmacist, or a reputable source online, before asking for an appointment with their GP.

Wait times have a negative impact on employers too.  Employees that can’t get access to treatment for themselves or their family take more sick leave.  More worryingly, health issues that aren’t addressed in the early treatable stage can escalate to a point where they require more time and money to fix.  Employers are faced with a stark choice; help employees gain timely access to healthcare or deal with the impact of sickness absence on the business.

It’s not just access to everyday healthcare that employees are struggling with, it’s the cost of it too.  The living standards squeeze means more families are struggling to pay for dental and eye care checkups and treatment.  Increasingly employees are turning to their employer for financial help with healthcare costs. The perk of PMI is often reserved for higher pay grades and even when lower cost healthcare options are offered, such as cash plans, few employees on lower pay grades have cash spare to buy them. 

There’s a growing problem with affordability with higher pay grades too.  A hike in IPT tax has seen the cost of PMI soar.  Employers must find ways of increasing value from PMI, or offer the benefit to fewer staff.

Taken together, these issues present a clear challenge for employers to find an affordable way to widen their support for employee healthcare.  In addressing this issue UK employers can learn from the USA where employers have been using discount plans for many years to offer healthcare to more employees, and at the same time contain costs. 

Early adopters of discount plans in the UK say it offers a three-in-one solution; enabling employers to extend their support to employees on lower pay grades, increase the value of PMI, and provide employees with access to an extensive network of healthcare practitioners. 

For some time employers have accepted the impact employee health can have on the success of their business.  The time has come to extend the health and wellbeing discussion to include cost and access.

Bruce Bernstien, Vice President, Global Sales, Munroe Sutton, a Careington Company.