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How Brokers Can Contribute to Health Equity

Quick look: Employers offer health insurance plans as part of their recruitment and retention strategies, though the lack of health equity is leaving some employees without the care they need. To eliminate this disparity and accommodate a diverse workforce, brokers and businesses can work with a PEO to provide access to benefits inclusive for all.

Health equity in the workplace suggests all employees have a fair opportunity to maintain their health and wellness. However, with inflation surging and healthcare costs continuing to rise, some employees are feeling the weight heavier than others, which creates a bigger gap in healthcare for those who may need it most.

Typically, the increase in healthcare costs is automatically passed on to employees without employers considering how this may affect their workforce. Not everyone experiences cost fluctuations, however minor, in the same way. Employees with higher salaries may be able to absorb the incremental costs, but even the slightest uptick can create challenges for others to afford basic necessities like food, housing, and childcare.

In light of cost discrepancies when it comes to affordable healthcare, many employers are taking steps to alleviate the burden for those most affected. Implementing change involves prioritizing affordability, accessibility, and inclusivity to prevent the health equity challenges faced today.

As a professional employer organization (PEO) broker working with small- and medium-sized business (SMB) leaders, part of healthcare planning involves taking actionable steps to achieve health equity among employees. These include making benefits easier to understand and navigate, creating better healthcare experiences, and developing a culture empowering employees to seek needed care without any attached stigma.

Expand benefits communication

According to a McKinsey report on health equity in the workplace, employees shared confusion about benefits regarding eligibility and use. To prevent this from contributing to health inequity, SMBs can work with their PEO brokers to evaluate inclusive language in benefit resources and how they are communicated.

Often emails go unread or employees don’t have time to attend in-person informational sessions which means healthcare communication falls short. To improve benefits communication, the integration of HR technology gives employers and employees healthcare information accessibility anytime, anywhere. Though each company may have its own preferences regarding how information is dispersed, by sharing it in various ways, there’s an opportunity for more equitable distribution.

Create better healthcare experiences

Employees from underrepresented groups are more likely to report frustrating experiences when accessing healthcare due to not feeling listened to and being faced with unexpected costs. Per the McKinsey insights, Black, Hispanic and Latino, and LGBTQ+ employees report economic instability and a lack of social support, while Asian employees report concerns over community safety.

High deductibles and premiums, as well as hidden out-of-pocket expenses and lack of accommodations, leave many employees at a disadvantage when seeking healthcare. Therefore, they are more likely to skip doctor visits and other medical necessities to save money, avoid adding to their debt, or the emotional toll of poor healthcare interactions.

Providing health plan transparency allows employees to anticipate out-of-pocket costs, copays, and deductibles. Also, introducing improved coordination of care can help employers improve the healthcare experience. Care coordination services support employees through benefits education and locating providers who are amenable to employees’ unique backgrounds and experiences, which saves employees valuable time and allows them to feel cared for in the way they need.

Destigmatize the need for healthcare

The McKinsey report also reveals 53% of employees feel stigma around receiving physical care, and 61% feel stigma around receiving mental healthcare. Additionally, people of color and LGBTQ+ employees were 3%-10% more likely to report workplace stigma due to a concern over appearing “uncommitted to work” than their White or straight counterparts.

Underrepresented groups also reported unfavorable mental health outcomes due to the stigma surrounding receiving care. One-tenth of White employees rated their mental health as “poor,” while one-fifth of Black, Hispanic, and Latino, and one-third of LGBTQ+ employees reported the same. The destigmatization of asking for help has only recently been highlighted.

However, because mental healthcare needs are on the rise, and services and support are readily available, it’s up to business leaders to close the gap. It calls for a change in company culture and is critical in promoting health equity. Here are a few examples of actions SMBs can take to make progress toward meaningful change.

Demonstrate inclusive, health-centric behavior

Providing additional benefits, such as access to healthcare apps and services, as well as promoting physical, mental, and financial wellness in the workplace keeps the focus on healthcare needs. Also, instituting company-wide mental health days, free additional resources, and regular tips about maintaining health and wellness are all ways business leaders can show support.

Track goals and maintain accountability

Employee surveys and focus groups are beneficial ways to understand how a company is benefiting (or not) from the current health plans and programs in place. The results can be measured against the company’s current population to quantitively see where discrepancies remain. A PEO solution like ExtensisHR can help companies implement these types of initiatives to help SMBs monitor their progress.

Offer flexible work schedules

As a result of the pandemic, flexible work schedules are increasingly popular as employees strive to manage a work-life balance. This benefit allows them the opportunity to take the time they need to respond to healthcare appointments for themselves and their families without the stigma of missing work.

Employers feel the weight and are responding to the importance of improving access to health and wellness services for all employees. Proactively working towards creating a workplace where everyone has the same opportunity for care optimizes employee health, performance, and productivity.

As a PEO broker, by working with ExtensisHR, you grant your clients access to industry resources, expertise, and experience necessary to navigate health inequities within the broad scope of HR. Give your clients the tools and support they need to keep their employees happy. Contact our HR experts today.

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