Today’s health care and economical climate makes it more critical than ever for employers to identify volunteer benefits which will provide cost savings and build morale. Two of these benefits, telemedicine and identify theft, have gained more attention as employers face increased concerns over health care costs, both to the company and their employees.
Telemedicine (although not insurance) has become the newest employee benefit on the market, the use of which is making news on a regular basis these days. Telemedicine allows individuals and family members the ability to schedule a time to talk to a board certified physician, licensed in your state, over the phone or by video access from a desktop, laptop or mobile device. The physicians completing the consultation are able to make a diagnosis and can even provide prescriptions. Top reasons for a company to provide telemedicine benefit to employees:
- Competitive Benefits: Employers over 1000 employees are rapidly adopting telemedicine. However, this trend is quickly moving into the smaller companies that understand the potential that telemedicine can have on employees and future medical cost.
- Healthcare Savings: Mitigating expensive claims from unnecessary trips to doctor’s offices, urgent care or emergency room visits is especially true for employees on High Deductible Health Plans. The savings from avoided visits translate into savings for not only the employee but the employer. If implemented correctly, the savings from a telemedicine program will exceed the cost of the actual program. Additional savings for employers comes from the soft cost in the form of increased productivity from employees. When employees don’t have to spend time traveling to and from a doctor’s office and waiting, they can focus on their job.
- Increased day-to-day quality of life: In essence Telemedicine gives employees a doctor that is on call 24/7/365 for themselves and their family members for any unexpected occurrences that might arise. Having a doctor on-call whenever needed, at work, at home, on the weekend, after hours and when you’re out of town or on vacation for non-emergency services such as flu, ear infections, allergies, pink-eye, poison-ivy, rashes, minor burns, respiratory infections and other conditions with a program recommend by their employer will certainly help build morale.
Our market research compared a number of providers for telemedicine for us to determine one which could offer a benefit with unlimited consults, no co-pay or consultation fee and a very low cost monthly fee. If you are considering a telemedicine program for your business, be sure there is not an additional out-of-pocket expense for each call and that the actual telemedicine vendor has consistency and quality customer service controls. We received input from our clients that employees were previously paying for each phone call (on average a $40 or more out-of-pocket expense) for their telemedicine services included in their group medical plans. In addition to understand the actual cost to employees, you should expect an average call back time of 9 minutes from a US Board Certified physician. Also, it is important to ask how transcripts to the employees’ physician are handled to ensure that the providers’ system maintains 100% HIPAA compliance.
The other benefit program which we are seeing an increased interest by employers is a voluntary identity theft plan. The Federal Bureau of Investigation calls identity theft an “increasingly insidious and pervasive problem” that can threaten virtually anyone. More ominously, identity theft “costs American businesses and consumers a reported $50 billion a year and causes untold headaches for an estimated10 million U.S. victims annually. Identity theft makes it easier for terrorists and spies to launch attacks against our nation.”
As identity theft continues to grow as a crime and a social, financial and security concern, questions of liability become more crucial. In light of the criminal and social considerations, the litigious environment of the United States, and existing and emerging laws concerning corporate responsibility for the protection of personal data, employers have begun to take actions of their own to protect the data of their customers and, increasingly, their employees. To contend with data breach, the government has instituted legislation and laws like FACTA, HIPAA and Gramm, Leach, Bliley that could affect your company and its employees with civil and criminal penalties and liability.
We have found that our clients’ HR departments are very interested in determining resources to assist employees to correct identity theft issues. Employees often do not know where to begin when there is a breach and often take too long to make the calls and seek assistance. Unfortunately, that may escalate to incredible stress and productivity issues at work. Having a plan in place which works on their behalf to coordinate with credit card companies, financial institutions, the Federal Trade Commission, the Social Security Administration, DMV and other organizations that need fraud alerts requires professional assistance. Offering employees a voluntary benefit to help them with identity theft is hassle free compared to so many other health care requirements.
Meanwhile, as an employer there are many convincing benefits for establishing a Sensitive and Non Public Information Policy:
- Meeting legal and regulatory compliance requirements of the Federal Trade Commission.
- Preventing / reducing privacy and security incidents from occurring.
- Retaining customers who can see the business is protecting their personal information.
- Making personnel aware of the risks involved with handling NPI (non public information), and in turn, having them work in a more secure manner.
- Class action law suits with NO STATUTORY LIMITATION.
It is also important to provide education for employees on identity theft as the culprits are constantly getting more sophisticated in their tactics. Are they handing credit cards to servers at restaurants? Are they supplying personal information over the internet, at home or at work? Do they keep Social Security numbers in their wallet or purse? These are just a few of the habits we all need to be concerned about and have the resources to reduce out-of-pocket expenses and time spent away from work with services from detection to resolution.
For this and more health care management needs please contact Tower Benefit Consultants, Inc. Scott Wells is senior vice-president of Tower Benefit Consultants, Inc. and is a “Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist” (CITRMS). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757.424.2493.