How companies are adapting employee health, wellness strategies for COVID-19 and beyond

“We all know that the pandemic is impacting us all financially, in some way, shape, or form,” Ruffini said. So Carhartt implemented an income advance program, which allows associates to apply for a loan up to $2,000 without having to go through a credit check. “It’s a no-questions-asked type of program and paid back through payroll deductions,” she said.

Carhartt pays for associates’ membership to care.com to help them find care for children, parents and even pets, as well as housekeeping services. Carhartt also provides two hours of tutoring services per month, through tutor.com. Ruffini added, “Next year, we are introducing life planning accounts, which would allow associates to choose from offerings, such as pet insurance, identity theft protection, mental health apps and emergency savings accounts.”

Many employers have also found ways to keep employees’ health care costs down, such as avoiding health care premium increases. “This year, I think there were a lot of employers that really bent over backwards to try to keep things as status quo as possible,” McLellan said.

Some companies have been working with Plante Moran to reduce costs through alternative benefit strategies, such as third-generation telemedicine, which provides more expansive care and more advanced technology, for example text-based primary care, McLellan said.

Other alternatives have included specialized vendors that can import prescription drugs at lower costs and that bundle care (such as bundling together the typically separate charges for a hospital room, a physician’s services, an anesthesiologist’s services, and other components of a hospital visit). Companies began exploring these strategies independent of COVID, but they may be a higher priority now as a way to keep their and their employees’ costs manageable, McLellan said.

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