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Employee feedback leads to a new health plan offering, cost savings

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In the benefits world, we strive to curate offerings that meet our employees’ needs, help them feel valued and enable them to make healthy decisions easily. It’s what’s best for them, and for the company.

At Slumberland Furniture, a family-owned furniture retailer in the Midwest, the benefits we offer need to resonate with our people. Our employees are a mix of administrative, professional, operations and sales representatives, spread out across headquarters, 52 retail locations and two distribution centers. We take their needs to heart on the benefits team. To help us, we seek informal feedback, and we conduct periodic surveys to get feedback from employees on our benefits offerings — what they value and where we can improve — so we can adjust accordingly to blend employee needs and organizational objectives.

When we conducted our first benefit survey in 2017, a number of employees told us the high-deductible health plan (HDHP) we had in place was too expensive. They couldn’t afford to go to the doctor because paying the entire bill (before meeting the deductible) on top of their premium created financial strain. This reinforced to the benefits team that if our employees can’t afford care, they can’t effectively manage their health. With employee feedback in mind, we set out to find a better alternative.

We started by reviewing employee survey results and benchmark analysis with our executive team and broker, and then established priorities for next steps. That is when our broker introduced us to Bind. We knew our broker wouldn’t steer us towards something they didn’t believe in, but the plan design concept was new to us, so we needed to take time to make sure it was really right for us.

What stood out about Bind was its price transparency and ability to help employees identify the most efficient care options before seeking treatment. It fulfilled our desire to help employees make healthy choices, easily, and ensure access to the care they need.

We decided to offer Bind alongside our current HDHP because we know change can be hard, particularly when it comes to health plans. We didn’t want to make our employees feel we were forcing them one way or another. Offering choice is important to us.

As we rolled out our new offering for 2018, it was important to us that we tie the decisions we made back to what we’d heard from employees in the survey. Communication was critical to demonstrate our intentions and commitment to delivering what people want. During open enrollment, we held webinars and in-person informational sessions at most of our retail locations to discuss the plan and answer questions. We created a video featuring our CEO, Bind representatives and me, talking about what we heard from employees and how the Bind plan delivered.

In the first year, 68% of employees chose Bind. Enrollees spread across all demographic groups, from distribution and headquarters employees, to single and family plans. Premiums on the Bind plan were 10% lower than what employees paid in the previous year, and Slumberland projected savings of 30% on health care costs. We were able to invest savings into additional employee benefits. When we surveyed again to gauge how employees felt about Bind, the overwhelming response was positive. Because they know how much care will cost before going to the doctor, they can afford the copays, and they feel confident and empowered to actually use their health plan. In year two, enrollment grew to 74%. I consistently receive positive feedback about the Bind plan.

My challenge to other benefits professionals is this: Evaluate your current health plan offerings. Are you making the healthy choice easy? Do employees actually value their options as you think they do? When we can easily enable employees to proactively seek care, we give them the tools to stay more in-tune with their health. They don’t have to decide whether they can afford for themselves or a family member to go to the doctor. They can just get the care they need, when they need it. And that’s what’s best for all of us.

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