Sears, Safeway & Healthcare

Companies, including Sears and Darden Restaurants, are trying new ways to better meet the health insurance needs of their employees. Instead of a fixed set of health plan options, both are providing a “pool of money” employees can use to choose their medical coverage and insurer from an online marketplace. Previously, Safeway implemented its Healthy Measures program to reward employees engaging in healthy behaviors by decreasing the amount they were required to contribute toward the cost of their healthcare plan. Programs like these give employees more control over their health benefits and reduce costs.

If you are trying to find new ways to better manage healthcare costs and coverage consider the following:

  • Understand Employee Needs: Often major decisions regarding healthcare options are made in a vacuum. Someone or a committee makes a gut call based on costs and amount of coverage without considering the features that employees consider most important. Employee input should be taken into consideration when making decisions regarding which features to reduce, delete, add, or increase. A proper segmentation using statistically valid techniques will deliver clear and valid insights on the functional and emotional needs of different groups or segments of employees, critical input to any form of innovation.
  • Innovation Process: There is a proven process to generate, filter, and refine successful products and services. The irony is that even the most innovative companies frequently fail to apply these same principles and practices internally when making decisions about employee health plans. Often, companies even fail to deeply involve their insurance provider, an essential partner throughout the process. Instead of being proactive about healthcare innovation, companies often fail to create and implement the best solution.
  • Thoughtful Communication: People are very sensitive to how change is presented and communicated. Too frequently companies approach telling employees about major changes to benefits without a great deal of thought, resulting in confusion and anxiety. Creating and testing the right messaging, ideally by employee segment, can greatly improve perceptions and adoption of new approaches to employer-provided health insurance.

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