Counting Tomatoes

by Anne Nicoll

This past summer – the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey was released. We first blogged about it in July.

One area from the survey that struck me this year was employers’ views on the purpose of their health plan and how they measure success.tomatoes

The survey asked employers to name the main purpose for offering colleagues a benefit plan. Peace of mind made the top of the list followed by retaining or attracting employees and – finally – keeping employees healthy and productive.

Sounds like a pretty good priority list to me. Except when you look at employers’ priority areas when measuring the effectiveness of their plan – finances and frequency made the top of the list with things like productivity and absenteeism much further down. The two lists don’t match and that’s a problem.

It’s like setting out to grow 20 tomatoes and – when done – not counting the tomatoes but just measuring how much soil or water you used. It’s all about the investment but not the harvest.

So whose job is it to count the tomatoes?

It’s pretty clear employers want to support the health of their employees. But often when they meet with their benefit partner to discuss plan priorities and design it typically leads back to the cost of the plan. Instead of thinking about keeping plans “affordable” which would factor in not only the hard dollar cost of the programs but also the impact the programs are having on employees.-   the harvest – managing and improving employee health.

marketIn the study only 36% of employers said their benefit provider regularly provided analyses of claims data that identify the main disease states in their workforce. Without enough data to set effective goals it’s pretty hard to decide where the focus the effort and how to measure success. Employers also said when it comes to making changes to their plans the lack of options and offerings from their benefit provider was the biggest challenge.

Benefit providers need to step up

Advisors and insurers need to step up to close the gap between plan cost  and effectiveness. Plan advisors and insurers should be probing more to find out based on the data and analysis what employers truly needfrom their plan beyond just the dollars—and then deliver a balanced solution encompassing affordability, sustainability and employee health.

Benefit plans – when done right – can have a great impact on employee  health, and productivity. It starts with employers’ commitment to employee health supports – but it’s up to their benefit partner to plant the seeds, nurture the plants and count the tomatoes. Ready to start planting?

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