Time to focus on health, when thinking about health benefits

The world has witnessed the biggest disruptor in the form of a global pandemic that has brought the focus back on what matters most – one’s health. Health disruptions have led to human costs, economic costs and business costs. Given that more than 3 billion people around the world and over half a billion people in India are employed, the time has come for employers to have a critical look at the nature of health benefits that they provide (if at all) to their employees.

There is a definitional problem today in the way employers in India understand the term ‘health’. The WHO constitution states that health is a complete state of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, not just the absence of disease or infirmity. But the health benefits offered by employers in India mostly focus only on providing health insurance while rendering lip service to the more important goal of keeping employees and their families healthy through preventive healthcare services.

A survey of over 100 companies across India, showed that 65% of companies are offering only general medical health insurance as part of their health benefits package. 60% of HR leaders think that health insurance is synonymous with health benefits. A key proof point of why this is an incomplete model is that less than 20% of employees in general claim their health insurance. Why is this incomplete? Group health insurance is a valuable service no doubt, but it benefits an employee when they or their dependents are sick and need medical treatment. Employers need to restructure their health benefits to combine group health insurance with preventive healthcare services that focus on improving employees’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

How can this be done?

Preventive healthcare for employees needs to cover three broad areas

Healthcare Consultative Services – help employees to get timely advice on how to stay healthy and avoid sickness. This includes providing 24×7 access to a team of medical professionals covering both general areas and specializations, across physical, psychological and adjacent areas of wellness like diet and nutrition. Many companies provide employees access to marketplaces through which they can get access to these professionals. But a curated service where professionals are motivated to respond and to care for employees should be preferred to a marketplace.

Trusted Diagnostic and Treatment Services – the team of medical professionals should be able to recommend the right tests or diagnostic exercises which can be conducted at specialized labs and clinics or at partner facilities where the focus and motivation is on employee care. Again, a curated experience needs to be created here for employees to get the best experience. Based on test results, the medical team can treat employees or recommend them to be vetted and capable specialists who can take things forward

Healthcare Motivational and Educational Services – employers cannot expect that employees will know all that there is to know about preventive healthcare. They need constant education on work and lifestyle-related physical and mental health risks. Employers need to constantly engage with employees to make them aware of mental health risks, lifestyle-related illness risks (diabetes, hypertension, obesity) and life event care (maternity, parental care). Employees also need a motivational push to get frequent checkups done, to participate in health challenges that get them more active, eat healthy, reduce harmful habits etc.

It’s time to bring the focus back on health when thinking about health benefits



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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