“We want our employees to spend their time on real issues,” said Charlie Salter, VP of Benefits at ConAgra. He means it. Charlie and ConAgra have built their healthcare benefits around some simple concepts that are yielding impressive results. How impressive? Close to flat healthcare cost trend since 2007.
Charlie’s work is part of a growing trend among America’s most innovative companies: Designing healthcare benefits in ways that have a real impact on quality and cost. It’s why I [recently] asked Charlie to share the podium with me in Boca Raton. ConAgra is showing it’s possible to control healthcare costs by helping people do the right thing.
The vision behind ConAgra’s programs is simple: Employees have to be responsible for managing their own care. But, says Charlie, this is easy to say, harder to do. “So we do as much as we can to make it as easy for people to do the right thing.” ConAgra gives its employees a significant financial stake in their well-being, through a health plan that has a $1,500 deductible. ConAgra supplements the plan with a health savings account (HSA) that lets workers use pre-tax dollars to pay for the deductible. Like other HSAs, any money the employee doesn’t spend is theirs to keep. It means employees are more engaged in healthcare decisions.
ConAgra also motivates its employees to understand their health risks and to take care of themselves. For example, ConAgra pays for 100 percent of the cost of preventative treatments like medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and others. It pays for the cost of programs to help employees quit smoking and lose weight. “It’s hard to change,” says Charlie, “but the more you can do now to take care of yourself, the better off you’ll be.”
Finally, ConAgra focuses on making sure its employees have the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the healthcare system. Best Doctors forms an important part of that strategy. Through innovative and personalized online communications tools, ConAgra employees are encouraged to call Best Doctors when they’re trying to deal with a medical situation.
In the last year, 31 percent of ConAgra members who used Best Doctors found a problem with [a prior] diagnosis and more than half found something wrong with [a previously advised] treatment. Charlie says Best Doctors saves ConAgra more money than it spends on Best Doctors, which he likes a lot. But what he really likes is how it fits into ConAgra’s overall approach to benefits.
It may come as a surprise to some people that major U.S. corporations are so progressive when it comes to how they deal with healthcare, but it shouldn’t. Their stories need to be told, not just because they are interesting, but because they point the way forward for the rest of us. They are proof that it’s possible to change healthcare for the better.
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*