Key Strategies for Navigating the Impacts of COVID-19 on Employee Healthcare Costs COVID-19; Programs and Resources Published:August 19, 2020 Dave Kyllo Page ContentThe COVID-19 pandemic has created both a health and economic crisis, and it comes as no surprise that healthcare costs—which are inextricably linked to public health and the economy—are expected to rise over the next year. Considering that healthcare is already one of the largest expenses for businesses, this is not positive news for employers who are facing financial pressure.The direct and indirect costs related to COVID-19 in the healthcare world will show themselves in the form of increased premium rates over the next few years. A study from Covered California estimated that premiums could increase between 4 and 40 percent nationally in 2021.A lot is driving these projections. For one, the costs related to testing and treating COVID-19 are high—this year, they are estimated to be between $34- $251 billion. Factor in the possibility that there may be a resurgence in cases, and these costs are not likely to let up in the following year. At the same time, healthcare costs for non-COVID related services have likely dropped due to efforts to reduce elective procedures during the pandemic. Despite this, it is the cost of the uncertainty of healthcare demands in the near future that will be bringing an even greater financial burden to employers.Being able to provide good and affordable healthcare plans for employees is most certainly a recruitment and retention strategy. This is a time of many unknowns in the long-term care industry, and employees want to feel supported by their plans. But this can be hard to achieve when these facilities are also financially strapped. What should employers be doing to balance their needs with their employee’s needs?Employers should act now to create a more resilient health benefits strategy within their businesses in order to provide solid healthcare options to employees. This means avoiding making decisions that only benefit the short term—things like raising out of pocket costs for employees, such as copayments or deductibles, or dropping coverage altogether. Here are some longer-term strategies to help employers navigate the healthcare terrain as we move out of a pandemic:Education is keyBusinesses need to pay more detailed attention to their health plan spending and manage healthcare benefits with the same level of care and scrutiny as they would to other expenses within their business. Spend some analytical energy understanding why costs have been exceeding the benchmark.Educating employees about their healthcare options will also lead to cost savings in the long run. Providing care navigation services that help them understand what kind of healthcare and treatment options they should receive will allow them to seek care at a fair price and reduce unnecessary appointments or procedures.1. Prioritize preventative careEmployees of long-term care facilities are doing their best to provide preventative care to their patients amidst a pandemic. Promoting preventative care for the health and wellbeing of the employees themselves is a way to show that they are valued and supported by their healthcare plan and by their employer. A business that pushes preventative care both within the workplace and through preventative services offered in a healthcare plan will not only recruit and retain new employees but will save in the long run.2. Promote technologyOffering telehealth options to employees will not only boost revenue but reduce healthcare costs for the employee. As we face an uncertain future, the promise of health care in virtual form will ensure that employees are still receiving the care they need.3. Consider new healthcare plansThere is no better time to rethink and redesign your health benefit options to employees. Given that COVID-19 has hit long-term care facilities the hardest, it is important that health benefits be used as a tool to retain and recruit employees.What if there was a plan that was designed with both employees and employers of long-term care facilities in mind? Compass Total Benefit Solutions has created a new minimum essential coverage (MEC) plan for both part-time and full- time workers.This plan is as low as $161 a month, with copays for regular visits for only $20, and free Teladoc Health telemedicine services—making it very desirable for employees that are looking for basic coverage and a low deductible. Better yet, this plan only adds $1 per hour to the total compensation of each employee.Read more about the Compass Plan by going to the Member Benefits section of the AHCA portal: www.AHCABenefits.org. Reach out to Nick Cianci, president of Compass Total Benefit Solutions, at Nick@compasstbs.com for help with the enrollment process.