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Employers are finding themselves between a rock and hard place when it comes to health benefits. If they reduce or eliminate benefits, they lose quality workers as well as productivity. If they maintain or increase benefits, they're almost certain to spend beyond their budgets year after year. In trying to strike a happy medium, more employers are now remodeling their health benefit plans dramatically, hoping to see better results.
"I've always believed that the end game is to improve health and reduce the overall cost burden as opposed to trying to shift costs," Critelli says. "Let's say you're successful with shifting health plan costs to the employee, what you would find, and what many companies have found, is that they simply get a lot more worker's comp claims."
As the chief personnel officer in the 1990s, Critelli witnessed the problem of high healthcare spending for this self-insured company. A progressive remodeling of its benefit approach and the institution of a healthier corporate culture eventually led Pitney Bowes to where it is now: cost trends that are 33% lower compared with similar employers. The organization invests $150 million annually in health, and that 33% difference is a substantial advantage.
"We moved rather rapidly from zero cost sharing to 20%, and we wanted to give people something in return," Critelli says. "That's when we started [on-site] health clinics, preventive screenings and active case management, and tried to present a more caring face to employees as were asking them to spend more out-of-pocket dollars on health."
He says it was important to prevent the perception that the company was only taking away benefits and not giving anything new, something many employers fail to recognize when reworking benefit plans.