Group health insurance: four pitfalls companies need to avoid

12th Nov by Carmen Lapthorne

Group health insurance: four pitfalls companies need to avoid

Health benefits can play a critical role in retaining existing staff and attracting new talent to your organisation. Lifetime financial adviser Carmen Lapthorne warns business owners and HR managers against making these common mistakes.

OPINION: Health insurance is still seen as one of the most attractive staff benefits a company can offer. A US survey saw a huge 86 percent of 10,624 workers* confirm that health insurance is vital when deciding to accept a new job.

Here in New Zealand eight out of 10 employees rated medical insurance as an important benefit a company needs to provide, according to the Wellness in the Workplace Survey 2017 undertaken by Southern Cross.

And while health insurance can seem like a big expense for companies to offer, an absent employee typically costs their employer $600 to $1,000 a year due to sickness. Health insurance goes a long to reduce absenteeism showing that providing health benefits for your employees doesn’t just look after your staff’s wellbeing, it helps your company’s bottom line too.

Encouragingly, more Kiwi employers are understanding the benefits of keeping employees healthy and looked after, which includes real investment in their team’s wellbeing. More companies are signing up for group health cover, introducing wellness programmes and paying for flu vaccinations as part of their comprehensive approach to help staff stay healthy, engaged and productive.

Despite this, there are still four common mistakes I see employers and HR professionals make regularly. 

Mistake #1: Thinking no cover is better than entry-tier cover

Companies who want the best for their staff may be put off offering the base tier of medical cover and wait until they’re in a better financial position to offer a more comprehensive cover rather than signing up for basic group health insurance.  This, my opinion, is terribly short-sighted.

Health insurance is such a powerful incentive – offering such value to existing staff and serving as a dealmaker when attracting top candidates – that it would leave you at a disadvantage to overlook it. Every little bit helps, and it’s completely acceptable to provide an entry-level of cover to your team. Because healthcare is such a competitive industry with great products all vying for business, employers could be surprised at how good a deal you can get once you start looking and comparing options.   

Mistake #2: Not communicating the full value of benefits

It’s not enough to offer health insurance, business owners and HR managers need to make sure they’re highlighting all policy’s benefits to staff.  We’ve often found that businesses generally don’t make a big enough deal about the health cover they offer, to such a point that it makes you wonder if staff realise it’s even available to them, let alone the range of benefits the group policy may offer.

In today’s competitive market, it’s in a company’s best interest to become educators as well. Employers need to make sure staff are aware and understand the full range of benefits available to them, and communicate the valuable contribution these policies provide.  If you’re time-strapped, ask your financial adviser to come into the office to explain the full benefits the policy offers, including answering staff questions, and how best to use it.

Mistake #3: Forgetting their family

Sure, you’re hiring one individual – so why should you consider their family, right? Wrong. When you weigh up the cost-to-benefit ratio, it becomes a no brainer: costs to include children on a health plan are minimal, and it’s often cheaper in terms of rate to insure a family than it would be to insure an individual. In addition, because no medical underwriting takes places, this offers impressive value to staff. Healthcare often matters so much more to employees with families.

If you’re working within a tight budget, you may want to cover the cost of adding any children and introduce co-payments should a staff member want to add their partner. 

Mistake #4: Not allowing staff to tailor cover to their needs

To maximise the full benefit of rewarding your staff with health insurance, it’s important to give them the freedom to add on extra cover if they need to. This can be done in a number of ways: you could give staff the option of several plans adding up to the same value, or could allow them time at work to consult with the financial adviser to tailor the existing plan to better suit their needs.

For example, a female staff member may want to increase breast cancer coverage by adding specialist tests to her plan as an out-of-pocket expense. Allowing staff to customise their health plan to meet their needs will make it a more powerful retention tool.

Article by Carmen Lapthorne

Carmen Lapthorne is a Lifetime financial adviser with over 8 years’ experience in the health insurance sector. Employer Group Schemes are her specialist area of knowledge.

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