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Inspiration + Insights • Fairfield County Business Journal

What Employers Need to Know About Specialty Benefits

By Tom Wiffler | 3-min read

Employers looking to reduce health care costs might consider eliminating specialty benefits such as vision, dental or disability. But there are compelling reasons why they should continue to offer or add these benefits – either paid for partly by the employer or as voluntary benefits, with premiums paid by employees.

Many employees value specialty benefits (also known as ancillary benefits), and employers can offer them with little or no additional cost. In fact, a recent UnitedHealthcare survey found that 85 percent of employees said having vision and dental benefits is “important” during open enrollment, the time each fall when millions of Americans select or switch their health benefits for the coming year.

Skipping specialty benefits covering vision, dental or disability could be a mistake, as integrating specialty benefits with medical coverage can help identify times when clinical intervention is needed as well as encourage healthier outcomes and more effectively manage medical costs.

With growing evidence of a link between oral and eye health to overall health, as well as to an array of chronic medical conditions, offering specialty benefits may prove valuable to employers and employees. In addition, integrating specialty benefits with medical coverage can give employers additional information that helps enable proactive clinical interventions and consumer-engagement strategies, drawing on a wide range of data to help encourage a healthier workforce and more effectively manage medical costs.

Here is information about specialty benefits for employers and employees to consider:

Vision

The eyes are a window to overall health, revealing important information about a person’s well-being and, in some cases, helping detect a range of chronic conditions. In feet eye exams can help detect and manage diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and others. Employees who are aware of and able to successfully manage chronic conditions can focus on their work, helping improve productivity and reducing the likelihood of sick days or disability leave.

Dental

Oral health plays a significant role in overall health, especially for people with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A UnitedHealthcare study showed that people with certain chronic conditions who received appropriate dental care, including preventive services and the treatment of gum disease, had net medical costs that were on average $1,037 lower per year than those who received no dental care. A person with diabetes and periodontal disease who receives the recommended dental treatments or cleanings is at a lower risk of inflammation, which can help improve diabetes management and avoid costly complications.

Financial Protection

Benefits such as disability, accident and critical illness coverage can help provide employees financial protection and additional support following a serious.injury or medical event, such as cancer, heart attack or stroke. Health plans that combine medical and specialty benefits have shown the ability to help reduce the duration of disability claims through improved management, offering plan participants additional support and information, including a case manager and exercise and nutrition advice. These additional resources mean employees may get back to health – and work – more quickly.

Hearing Health

Hearing loss is a significant health issue for more than 48 million Americans, 60 percent of whom are still in the workforce or in school, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. By helping employees obtain treatment for hearing loss, employers can help foster a healthier, more productive workforce and reduce the risk of employees developing a range of physical and mental health issues associated with hearing loss, including increased risk of fells, social isolation and dementia.

Offering specialty benefits as part of an employee’s menu of benefit options may help maximize the effectiveness of a company’s health care dollars and, when offered alongside medical coverage, provide families with added peace of mind for both their health and financial protection. Employers that combine specialty and medical benefits may be able to reduce turnover, increase productivity and help build a culture of health.

 

This article was written by Tom Wiffler from Fairfield County Business Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax or financial advisors to understand the tax, financial and legal consequences of any strategies mentioned in this article.