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Smart Benefits: More Employers Offering More Health Plan Choices

Monday, February 24, 2014


Employers faced with spiraling healthcare premiums are offering employees more plan choice as a way to regain some control.

Options Optimum for Employers and Employees

Offering a choice of plans means employers can fix their share of the contribution to the lowest cost plan to help control expenses long term – a structure considered to be defined contribution. And more options can help employers attract and retain employees.

For employees, having a choice means they can decide which plan is right for them. Rather than just having one plan that can make employees feel they are paying for benefits they don't use, adding plans that appeal to different types of employees helps workers feel empowered, boosting their satisfaction.

Law Firm Leads With Choice

One local law firm offers a choice of three plans to appeal to the different interests and needs of its employees.

  • There is a low, $500 deductible plan with a higher premium that appeals to those who use services more frequently and are willing to pay more weekly to have less out-of-pocket expenses when services are used.
  • They offer a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan with a $1,500 deductible for those who want a tax advantage and the opportunity to save money for future healthcare needs, even though they may not use services now. And the firm even contributes to the HSA for employees.
  • The firm has a $3,000 high deductible plan with copays on certain services rather than deductibles. This plan offers a really low premium and is designed for those who don’t anticipate using higher cost services and want to spend less money on health insurance.

With the choice of three plans, employees feel the benefits decision is in their hands, increasing employee satisfaction with the firm’s benefits program. The options also offer more financial flexibility for those who need it.

Carrier Choice a Trend

The trend towards choice reflects what’s happening in the healthcare marketplace. Until recently, carriers have limited plan choice, mostly to one to two plans. However, healthcare reform has created a marketplace of individual choice through the public exchanges. Both the Rhode Island and Massachusetts exchanges offer a variety of plans for individuals to select from. And, even small businesses going through the public exchange shops are able to offer a multitude of plan choices around a defined contribution model.

However, there’s a potential downside to the exchange plans: too much choice can overwhelm individuals who are trying to make a decision on which plan to purchase. Private exchanges emerging all over the country have responded with less choice than the public exchanges, but more options than an employer typically offers – as many as six plans. But private exchanges are new and their technology-driven platforms and enrollment features are meant for computer savvy individuals. For employers not ready to take the leap to a private exchange, adding plans may be a smart choice in the meantime.

Amy Gallagher has over 21 years of healthcare industry experience guiding employers and employees. As Vice President at Cornerstone Group, she advises large employers on all aspects of healthcare reform, benefit solutions, cost-containment strategies and results-driven wellness programs. Amy speaks regularly on a variety of healthcare-related topics, and is often quoted by national publications on the subject matter. Locally, Amy is a member of SHRM-RI, the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, and the Rhode Island Business Healthcare Advisory Council.


Related Slideshow: New England’s Healthiest States 2013

The United Health Foundation recently released its 2013 annual reoprt: America's Health Rankings, which provides a comparative state by state analysis of several health measures to provide a comprehensive perspective of our nation's health issues. See how the New England states rank in the slides below.



All Outcomes Rank: Outcomes represent what has already occurred, either through death, disease or missed days due to illness. In America's Health Rankings, outcomes include prevalence of diabetes, number of poor mental or physical health days in last 30 days, health disparity, infant mortality rate, cardiovascular death rate, cancer death rate and premature death. Outcomes account for 25% of the final ranking.

Determinants Rank: Determinants represent those actions that can affect the future health of the population. For clarity, determinants are divided into four groups: Behaviors, Community and Environment, Public and Health Policies, and Clinical Care. These four groups of measures influence the health outcomes of the population in a state, and improving these inputs will improve outcomes over time. Most measures are actually a combination of activities in all four groups. 

Diabetes Rank: Based on percent of adults who responded yes to the question "Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have diabetes?" Does not include pre-diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy.

Smoking Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are current smokers (self-report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke).

Obesity Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/

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6. Rhode Island

Overall Rank: 19

Outcomes Rank: 30

Determinants Rank: 13

Diabetes Rank: 26

Smoking Rank: 14

Obesity Rank: 13



1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. High immunization coverage among adolescents

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians  


1.High rate of drug deaths

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in heath status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/RI

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5. Maine

Overall Rank: 16

Outcomes Rank: 25

Determinants Rank: 12

Diabetes Rank: 23

Smoking Rank: 29

Obesity Rank: 28



1. Low violent crime rate

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Low prevalence of low birthweight  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High rate of cancer deaths

3. Limited availability of dentists

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/ME

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4. Connecticut

Overall Rank: 7

Outcomes Rank: 15

Determinants Rank: 4

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 4

Obesity Rank: 12



1. Low prevalence of smoking

2. Low incidence of infectious diseases

3. High immunization coverage among children & adolescents  


1. Moderate prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low high school graduation rate

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/CT

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3. New Hampshire

Overall Rank: 5

Outcomes Rank: 7

Determinants Rank: 5

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 11

Obesity Rank: 22



1. Low percentage of children in poverty

2. High immunization coverage among children

3. Low infant mortality rate  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High incidence of pertussis infections

3. Low per capita public health funding

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/NH

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2. Massachusetts

Overall Rank: 4

Outcomes Rank: 14

Determinants Rank: 3

Diabetes Rank: 10

Smoking Rank: 7

Obesity Rank: 2



1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians & dentists  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/MA

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1. Vermont

Overall Rank: 2

Outcomes Rank: 12

Determinants Rank: 1

Diabetes Rank: 4

Smoking Rank: 9

Obesity Rank: 5



1. High rate of high school graduation

2. Low violent crime rate

3. Low percentage of uninsured population  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low immunization coverage among children

3. High incidence of pertussis infections

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/VT


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