Tiffaney Kuper, Benefits Manager for Nebraska Furniture Mart, was the guest speaker at the August Compass Health Activation Webinar, where she discussed how the company has worked with Compass to increase high-deductible health plan (HDHP) enrollment.
Omaha, Nebraska-based Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) is a Berkshire Hathaway-owned company. Founded in 1937, the company has 5,200 employees located in four states, and its Texas store has the distinction of being the largest home furnishing store in North America.
The company has a young workforce and the majority of employees are men in their mid-30s, many of whom are starting families. Nearly one-third of the company’s employees work in its warehouse division, while the rest work in either sales or administrative positions. Even with its young workforce, NFM’s most common health problems are back and joint issues.
Like many companies, NFM was facing rising healthcare costs and needed to find a way to control costs and encourage employees to be better healthcare consumers. As a result, it decided to introduce a high-deductible health plan in 2009 to encourage employees to be better stewards of their healthcare dollars. However, employees were initially cautious to enroll in the HDHP, with only 17 employees enrolling in the program during its first year.
Understanding the Real Cost of Healthcare
Kuper and her team were committed to finding a way to not only control costs and encourage employees to move to a high-deductible health plan, but also provide NFM’s employees with tools to make it easier to navigate the healthcare system.
That’s why NFM partnered with Compass Professional Health Services® in January 2012, introducing Compass’ healthcare navigation solution to help employees evaluate cost and quality data and make better healthcare decisions. In addition, employees can contact Compass to answer their health benefit related questions and find highly-rated doctors.
“It’s not that employees were making bad healthcare decisions,” Kuper said. “They were making uninformed decisions.”“It’s not that employees were making bad healthcare decisions. They were making uninformed decisions.” Click To Tweet
For example, Kuper asks employees during annual open enrollment meetings to guess how much a doctor’s visit costs. The most common answer is $30, which is the co-pay for a doctor’s visit under the NFM PPO plan. The actual cost of a doctor’s visit is $225. Every time employees go to the physician and pay a $30 co-pay, Nebraska Furniture Mart pays the remainder of the bill because it’s a self-insured company.
“I tell people if you feel like you’re getting $225 worth of medical care in seven minutes, you should keep going to that physician,” Kuper said. “However, if there’s another physician that costs $120, who would give you the same level of care and the same outcomes, you might want to consider shopping around.”
NFM encourages all employees (even those who belong to its PPO plan) to contact Compass to find out cost information before receiving care to make sure they aren’t surprised when they receive their medical bill. NFM also encourages employees to use Compass as a concierge service to help them save time when contacting doctors.
Increasing Awareness of High-Deductible Health Plans
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) have been around for years and people are used to having access to their entire balance at the beginning of the plan year. However, most NFM employees were unfamiliar with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and how they help people to put money aside for retirement or to pay for prescriptions or future medical costs. The biggest difference between the two savings options is that HSA funds can rollover year after year, while FSA funds are forfeited if not used during the plan year.
“A lot of our employees use the PPO plan and spend a great deal of money in premiums every month,” Kuper said. “A high-deductible health plan with an HSA might really be a better option for them. The job is convincing them.”
To achieve this goal, Kuper and her team have adopted the following approach:
- Require all full-time employees to attend annual open enrollment meetings: This is the one time of year where the benefits team can communicate a consistent message to all employees.
- Dispel myths about HDHPs: For example, people who are sick think HDHPs are only for healthy people. By the same token, people who are healthy think HDHPs are only for sick people. HDHPs can really benefit both groups.
- Provide the right incentives to make HDHPs more attractive: To encourage participation in HDHPs, NFM set attractive premiums, provided HSA contributions and doubled that incentive as part of its wellness program.
All of the hard work of Kuper and her team has paid off. Each year, NFM has seen the number of people enrolled in its HDHP plan increase. When NFM launched the HDHP in 2009, the plan had 17 enrollees. Today, nearly 1,100 people, or one-third of the company’s employees, are enrolled in one of the company’s two high-deductible health plans.
And while the number of HDHPs the company offers has increased, the number of PPO offerings has decreased. Originally, NFM offered three PPOs, and now it offers just one.
Kuper says the company will continue its efforts to encourage employees to move to a HDHP. It plans to increase PPO premiums next year and will continue contributing to the health savings accounts in the HDHP plans for the coming year.
“We realize there will always be people who want to stay with the PPO,” Kuper said. “But I hope more people will start to think about a high-deductible health plan and think it’s the right choice for them.”