Skip to content
Jennifer Benz November 16, 2016 3 min read

For Employers: 3 Hot Topics in Employee Benefits That Deserve Your Attention

We talk a lot about how employers are uniquely positioned to help their employees become more financially secure through the benefits they offer—not just by taking advantage of financial wellness programs, but by understanding how choosing and using their health benefits correctly will benefit them financially. What we don’t talk about as much is the extent of employers’ influence on health care costs. As I discuss in my column in the November issue of Workforce magazine, employers’ influence on health care costs doesn’t stop with employees. Employers have the potential to wield considerable influence on the health care system through a set of initiatives and new health care models known as payment reform. This influence also extends to improving financial fitness and health education. Read on for three areas employers should focus on to help their employees—and their organizations—thrive.

1. Ushering in a new era of health care payment models

In a nutshell, payment reform is an effort spearheaded by employers, advocacy groups, and new companies to change the way Americans pay for health services. At its heart is a change in the way we pay for health care. Payment reform efforts promote the idea that our health care system should move away from paying for volume and move toward paying for value. This means that providers will have a stake in the quality of care they provide—such as whether or not the patient gets and stays healthy—and share in the financial risk for providing that care.

By providing resources to employers, organizations such as Catalyst for Payment Reform are giving companies—big and small—an avenue to engage in this effort.

Another way that many employers are already pushing payment reform forward is by pursuing a “Centers of Excellence” model for high-cost procedures, such as surgeries. In this model, employees are sent to high-quality providers who have agreed to a set price for providing the surgery or treatment. The providers sometimes even include terms that protect the employer from the added costs of preventable complications.

Again, a shift away from quantity and toward quality—the key to creating a health care system that’s economically viable for patients, purchasers, and providers.

2. Leveraging financial wellness programs strategically

When it comes to the bottom line, employers are also discovering that their organizations thrive when they help their employees feel more financially stable. There’s no disputing the direct connection between employees who are stressed by financial worries and an organization’s balance sheet. Absenteeism and turnover increase, productivity suffers, and engagement plummets—all of which have a direct impact on profitability.

To address this issue, more employers are including financial wellness programs in the menu of benefits they offer their workforce. From offering employee loans to sponsoring debt management education courses, employers are finding that it pays to invest in improving the financial wellness of their workforce. Companies have proven the success of these programs by tying their investment in them to a business goal, such as reducing employee turnover—and then measuring the results against defined metrics.

I joined Brandt Suddath, Home Depot’s senior director of compensation and HR operations, in an interview about how the hardware superstore’s focus on financial wellness improved employee performance.

Watch the full interview

3. Closing the literacy gap through health education

And, of course, no discussion of employee health and financial wellness would be complete without a reminder about the importance of health literacy. The impact of workplace stress on employee health and financial wellness is well documented. Successful companies recognize that healthy, productive employees have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line. For employees to choose and use their benefits correctly, they need to make informed decisions. And to do that, they need to be health literate.

To learn how to improve the health literacy of your workforce, download our white paper, “5 Ways to engage employees in health education and build health literacy.

Jennifer Benz

Jennifer Benz, SVP Communications Leader, has been on the leading edge of employee benefits for more than 20 years and is an influential voice in the employee benefits industry.