Benefits and Compensation, Recruiting

How to Enhance Your Healthcare Offerings in a Tight Labor Market

The post-pandemic race is on to attract new employees—and as HR and finance executives both know, the solution can’t always be higher wages.

healthcare
Healthcare Benefits sign

Fortunately, other factors still mean a lot to jobseekers in the revived economy. Casual Fridays and office snack bars may help, but as research shows, health insurance is still at or near the top of virtually every list of candidate must-haves. A 2020 Insure.com research study of U.S. workers found that 70% considered health insurance to be an essential part of recruitment and retention.

It may be tempting for some employers, especially those seeking to control costs, to provide a single, high-deductible health insurance option. But this is a shortsighted approach. In a highly competitive market, even hourly employees are looking for choices. Candidates with young children, for example, may pass on a job offer that includes high-deductible health care in favor of another company that makes multiple plans available.

A range of options will give employers the best chance of landing the most desirable workers. While a healthy, single person in his or her 20s might prefer a high-deductible option, others may want a health maintenance organization (HMO) or a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan. If your company employs workers exclusively in metro areas with wide provider networks, an HMO alternative may suffice, but rural employees with fewer provider options may want a PPO, especially if a particular HMO-approved specialist requires a 50-mile drive.

Focus on Choice

To hire and retain the best talent in this tight market, your health insurance menu must be on par with the marketplace. Keep these disciplines and strategies in mind:

Offer comprehensive coverage. Seekers want to know that if they get sick, or simply need routine eye or dental care, their plan will cover them. For most Americans, the Affordable Care Act eliminated preexisting conditions as a hurdle for coverage; the challenge now for employers is to offer the widest-possible range of services while balancing overall cost.

Another facet of comprehensive coverage is geography. COVID-19 changed the employment game forever because for many companies, hiring is no longer local. If your new employee will be working remotely from the other side of the country, your regional provider may not have the necessary service footprint. A broader solution will become imperative.

It’s helpful, especially if a high-deductible plan is on the list, to also include a health savings account (HSA) benefit. HSAs are a great way for workers to save money for future healthcare needs, tax-free, as well as to cover high deductibles. If your company can contribute even a small amount each year to employee HSA accounts, you have a highly marketable plus to present during a job offer.

As another way to round out your coverage, consider supplemental life insurance. A group plan with $10,000 death benefits can be obtained at little to no cost yet helps to demonstrate the company’s concern and commitment.

Use health insurance as a sales tool. All too often, companies don’t emphasize their health insurance benefits during negotiations. Jobseekers, on the other hand, may see things quite differently. If your company has assembled a strong offering, make sure it is communicated clearly and prominently as part of your compensation package.

As you make an offer, tell the prospect what options are available and why each is important. Employees are often concerned about what their monthly out-of-pocket cost is for premiums, so where appropriate, stress affordable premiums instead of deductibles and coinsurance costs.

Educate before and after hiring. Health insurance is a complex subject for most people. Just as it’s important to demonstrate the breadth of your company’s insurance plans to prospective employees, the education process must also continue after hiring—especially before and during open enrollment periods.

It’s not wrong to start with topics as basic as “What is a copay?” “What is coinsurance?” and “What is a deductible?” It’s also important to educate employees about the difference between plan types, e.g., HMOs, PPOs, and exclusive provider organizations (EPOs). An educated workforce will make better decisions and keep costs down for everyone.

Don’t assume that educational content on your online benefits portal is enough. Most employees visit portals rarely; instead, focus on other avenues such as e-mail and company meetings, especially during enrollment periods.

Benefits Are Important

Clearly, it’s not possible to remake a health benefits program in a few short months to accommodate a hiring crunch. But these challenges will likely be with us for a while, so it’s worth the effort to optimize your benefits package.

Take the time to carefully measure the life stage and lifestyle needs of your workforce, and tailor your range of options to not only meet but also exceed those expectations if you can. A well-rounded, affordable program will give your prospective employees the confidence that they’re joining an organization that cares about them. Wages are important, but a well-designed health insurance offering will help your organization stay competitive now and in the future.

Read the findings of the open enrollment survey here.

Les Masterson is Managing Editor of Insurance.com and Insure.com. An award-winning journalist, he has researched and written extensively about health insurance and health care for consumers, executives, and hospital CEOs.