The ruling on the AARP/EEOC lawsuit back in December 2017 set the ball rolling for the EEOC to vacate the safe harbor for incentives tied to completing a health screening or answering disability-related questions. Why? The big reason revolves around the definition of “voluntary” not being clear in the regulations of the ADA and GINA.
Many rumors have cropped up stating that the days of incenting screenings and HRAs are over. Some employers have even started thinking about stripping incentives tied to screenings and HRAs from their wellness programs altogether. While the EEOC weighs their options in authoring new regulations, there are some common misconceptions in the market regarding screenings that we thought we’d address by laying out the facts.
1. Health screenings play an essential role in employee well-being.
Individuals can be alerted to risk factors that may detect disease early, regardless of how healthy they may look or feel at the time. At Bravo, every year we have hundreds of people who discover they are prediabetic, diabetic or hypertensive. Many who had zero indication that they had these conditions.
Annual screenings also help keep health top of mind! As we age, it becomes harder and harder to stay healthy. They provide everyone with a structured way to monitor their health and identify risks early on.
2. Screenings help drive the primary care relationship.
A significant portion of the population does not have a primary care physician. On-site screenings can be a powerful tool to help individuals with AND without a primary care relationship to understand their numbers. A health screening is not the same as an annual physical, but helps measure health and detect abnormalities that an individual should bring to a primary care provider. This way, they can review results with a physician who understands their family history and set an appropriate course of action. In that context, screenings can be a compelling starting point for a conversation with their doctor.
For those employers who prefer screenings with a physician, the increased frequency of visits with a primary care physician may result in fewer visits to the emergency room and more effective use of the benefit plan overall for preventative care, driving lower cost for employers and employees overall.
3. Screenings and HRAs are continually improving, helping build awareness and guide steps towards improvement.
Some of the best HRA products are much smarter than they used to be. Bravo’s standard product allows participants to immediately understand their health age after completing the HRA and educates them about the dangers of too much sugar intake, not enough physical activity, and the importance of sleep and caring for your social, emotional and mental health, for example.
4. Screenings help build smarter employee benefit plans.
On-site screenings allow high-risk individuals to monitor their progress and track improvement, all without causing a claim (a doctor’s visit) to hit the benefit plan. If the screening indicates a need to meet with a doctor, then the claims are more likely to be from those who truly needed the visit.
They also lend the ability to your HR and benefits team to understand trends in data and promote specific wellness program interventions where they are needed most, which helps drive employee reinvestment with the highest ROI. The aggregated data also helps aim targeted interventions by subgroup, job class or location.
5. Screenings help overcome the biggest objections to seeking preventative and reactive medical care.
Research shows that some of the biggest obstacles to seeking medical care are related to:
- A low perceived need of medical care (12%),
- Barriers to seeking or obtaining medical care (58.4%, e.g. financial and time constraints)
- Unfavorable evaluations of seeking medical care (33%, e.g. does not like or trust the doctor, has low confidence in their expertise, fearful of bad news, pain, or embarrassment)
When it comes to engaging eligible employees in your wellness program, and more specifically in health screenings, consider their perception, time, and money. If your participants don’t understand the intent or benefit of seeing a primary care provider or completing a health screening or HRA, they’re less likely to participate. Make sure that these activities are worth their time, and are not burdensome. After all, completing a screening and identifying any risks before they become claims will lead to more efficient use of the healthcare system. Make it worth their while. Thank them for taking accountability and doing their part to share in the reduction of health risks and the long-term cost trend.
If an employee doesn’t understand the value of your wellness program or the barriers to completing aspects of the program are too great, participation will suffer.
On a recent webinar, we revealed a few plan designs that show you how to implement a voluntary outcomes-based wellness program so that you can measure outcomes for the benefit of your organization, and inspire employees to achieve health improvements, one step at a time.