It's All About Consumerism and Engagement

Rhonda Marcucci, founder of Gruppo Marcucci (GPM), is a respected industry, observer, speaker and author of articles on topics pertaining to the HR and Benefits Administration technology and outsourcing industry. For up-to-the-minute insights from industry conferences, follow Rhonda on Twitter.


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It's All About Consumerism and Engagement

Posted on 12/11/2013

Consumerism and employee engagement are hot topics in the employee benefits arena. Two members of the Gruppo Marcucci consulting team recently traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism IHC Forum West. The current generation of consumerism translates to integrated health and performance for the Benefits industry with a focus on work site wellness, safety and stress reduction.

Following are some key observations from the Forum—with our own insights included.

  • Treat employees like adults. If employers are failing to fully engage employees in healthcare benefit decision it may be because other employee programs/policies don’t assume “adult” behavior, e.g., paid time off policy versus x vacation days, x sick days, x personal days, etc.
  • The lingo is changing. Industry terms are evolving, thanks in part to service providers. “Transparency” is now “right to know.” “Consumerism” means “empowerment.” “Disease management” is now “condition management.” Be aware of these and other changes in the industry vocabulary.
  • If you don’t offer one, I’ll find my own. Employees will create their own stress management program if the employer doesn’t offer one. Think alcohol, drugs. Resulting problems can be far more costly to the employer than implementing a good company stress management program.
  • Take two pills and go to this website. Along with traditional treatments doctors are prescribing “information therapy” – instructing patients to learn more about a specific condition through a well-sourced website or other resource. Information therapy will be a big boon to employee engagement on healthcare benefit choices!
  • The workplace is making me sick! Seven out of eight think the company doesn’t care. True or not, this is a result of a crisis of leadership in corporate America that focuses on numbers and cost, not on people and caring. While cost consciousness isn’t going away, we must view the workplace with a “caring” filter. Don’t ask how to cut workman comp expenses; ask how to make the workplace safer? The end result will be the same, but perceptions will be more positive. And remember, caring has no hierarchy, and that includes the broker. Make this part of your “environmental discussion.”
  • Brokers have a new client. Brokers and employers are partnering to provide resources to your mutual client—the employee, to help them become better consumers. Forget what you’re hearing about your job going away. Not true; but it is changing with a focus on the small to mid-market employer and one that calls for insight and guidance to support the integration of a complex environment.
  • Hire outside the box. Related to the changing role of brokers, companies are looking beyond traditional roles for hiring brokers, and embracing a change that has moved the focus from understanding the business to understanding the consumer.
  • Employees WILL engage; whether they like it or not. Wages failing to keep up with costs, a rise in consumer expectations, and growth of the individual insurance market are forcing employees to get involved with healthcare decisions. To help them engage, use plainspoken language. (Consider reading Why Business People Speak like Idiots: a Bullfighter’s Guide.)
  • Beyond open enrollment. Employers need to talk about wellness all year long to engage employees. Don’t wait for open enrollment.
  • Bill Gates was right. He said: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” The same is true with the level of adoption of changing healthcare systems/services. I read press releases from service providers touting enrollments that are simply not attainable in the short-term. Good for stock prices perhaps but bad for the industry. That said, be careful not to view falling short in the near-term as failure. The growth is on the back side.
  • Cost doesn’t equate with quality. Purchasing expensive healthcare doesn’t necessarily translate to best healthcare. Similarly, smart consumers don’t shop for best cost; they shop for best outcome. Higher upfront costs can mean overall lower costs due to low rates of re-admission, post-treatment infections, etc.
  • Private exchange confusion. At Gruppo Marcucci, we define private exchanges as benefits administration PLUS product and services. Confusion reigns in the marketplace however, and the lack of a universal understanding of what private exchanges are (and are not) creates problems for all stakeholders.

To discuss how consumerism is impacting your business or how to more effectively engage employees in the benefits enrollment process, contact Rhonda at Rhonda@gruppomarcucci-usa.com.

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About Gruppo Marcucci

Gruppo Marcucci (GPM), a division of Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., provides outsourcing intelligence and associated consulting to stakeholders in the Benefits and HR Technology & Outsourcing industry. Our in-depth understanding of the service provider market and our vast experience sourcing and implementing solutions is key to our clients achieving full operational success.

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