Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...
Aug. 23 — If you had a sore throat, would you conduct an online visit with a doctor? Your employer hopes you would.
Many large employers are offering a telehealth, also called telemedicine, component in their benefits package—medical care by physicians or other health-care professionals provided over an Internet or phone-video system—and the number is projected to grow. According to a recent study from the National Business Group on Health, 90 percent of large employers will offer telehealth services in 2017 and 97 percent will offer them by 2019.
“We’re seeing more and more employers who are adding telemedicine benefits, and the primary reason is that it’s an opportunity to decrease costs in terms of both health-care costs and lost productivity from having sick employees,” attorney Lisa Schmitz Mazur, partner with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 22. Mazur has a general health-care practice that focuses on representing hospitals and health systems.
Telemedicine “encounters” can cost about $45, while trips to the emergency room or a primary care physician can cost a lot more, Mazur said.
“It’s not only cheaper care, but you also have employees who have to take off of work to sit in a doctor’s office to wait for their appointment and that results in lost productivity,” she said.
More employers are offering a telehealth benefit for employees to give them better access to health care in a convenient environment, Allison Wils, director of health policy with the ERISA Industry Committee, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 16.
“If you’re at home and you have to be there and something comes up, using telehealth could be really convenient,” Wils said.
Being able to access a doctor online can also benefit workforces that may not have many medical care options in their area, she said.
Mazur agreed that telehealth increases access for workers, especially those who can’t easily leave their job sites for a doctor’s visit. She said she’s even seen some employers set up rooms for employees to conduct telehealth appointments.
Offering telehealth services to employees has become commonplace, especially for large employers, Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at the National Business Group on Health, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 22.
The next challenge will be convincing employees to use the resource, he said.
That’s because employee utilization of the benefit is pretty low, Mazur said. “Employers are offering it, but employees aren’t using it.”
That doesn’t mean it won’t catch on, but employers should reach out to employees to acquaint them with the benefit by making the understanding of it as easy and clear as possible, Mazur said. Posting signs in bathrooms and having information on the back of health-care cards are also good ways to communicate the option to employees, she said.
Wojcik thinks that the more employees use the benefit, the more comfortable they will be with it.
“It’s still relatively new, so I think it will take a while” to catch on, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Ricaurte Knebel in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)