The construction industry’s long struggle to deliver affordable health care to its workers is an expensive problem, raising costs for everyone involved. The industry’s particular exposure to work-related injuries is the basis for raising eMod scores, which in turn increases workers’ compensation premiums.

For too many Americans, meaningful access to basic health care is out of reach. That number is climbing higher as more and more employees are hit with significant cost increases to their employer-sponsored plans. High health insurance deductibles means out-of-pocket costs increase for the worker, so many will opt to go without health care benefits.

When more and more employees decline coverage due to cost, employers will experience increased use of their workers’ compensation plans, driving eMod scores up. When employees don’t have access to meaningful health care, workers’ compensation plans become the de-facto route to treatment. It’s a vicious cycle.

In the absence of an affordable health care plan offered to employees, business leaders often will see the following situation play out:

Employee is hanging holiday lights on Saturday afternoon and hurts their back. Without affordable access to care, they’ll most likely just rest up rather than seek treatment, leaving them vulnerable to further injury. The next week, while stacking materials on the jobsite, the employee hurts their back and, suddenly, workers’ compensation enters the equation.

Coincidence? It’s possible. However, situations such as these could be avoided by delivering access to high-quality, low-cost health care that allows an employee to get the care they need without having to potentially abuse the workers’ compensation plan for treating off-job injuries.

A Solution

So how can commercial and industrial construction business owners, professionals and industry suppliers handle the increasing cost of health care for their employees and reduce the overall cost of workers’ compensation premiums?

They must look for the innovators in the industry. New patient-focused plan models based around preventative care delivery are breaking through the logjam of health care coverage. As a result, these new health care plans are rapidly gaining ground over traditional forms of health insurance because they are providing real, meaningful and affordable access to care.

For instance, a foundational care plan could effectively break down access barriers by initially delivering professional telemedicine health care services. Look for 24 hours a day, seven days a week availability with a choice of English- or Spanish-speaking providers. This newfound, round-the-clock access would be a boon for employees who work long hours and often can’t find convenient off-hours to visit a doctor, as well as for non-native speakers who might otherwise avoid the doctor’s office.

But what about times when an employee needs in-office care? Studies show that cost is still a problem for many, especially when there is a copay. In fact, in a recent national survey, 40 percent of Americans said they hadn’t seen a doctor in the last 12 months due to costs. Another 32 percent reported skipping a needed prescription due to the cost.

A foundational health care plan could offer something that would be seen as radical in the marketplace—primary care office visits with no additional out-of-pocket costs to employees. In addition to telemedicine and in-office primary care, imagine if labs and even chiropractic care could be additional benefits offered with $0 copay and no-deductible? Suddenly, health care would be transformed into actual, usable health care benefits.

Most industry experts agree that the cost of turnover for a $10 to $12 hourly employee is between $3,000 and $4,000. For many construction positions that require specialized training, this cost is much higher. Offering foundational health care plans with primary care that’s readily available could not only help workers stay healthier, but also improve retention rates.

In a highly competitive labor market, many companies are now leveraging affordable core health care plans and offering them for free to their employees. The result? Significantly healthier and happier employees and reduced turnover.

Additional insurance options could be offered as a “buy-up” for catastrophic or high-dollar care needs. Of course, everyone has a different definition of catastrophic. To a $10 to $12 hourly employee that number might be $200. To a manager or supervisor that number might be higher. Each type of employee will likely have different financial protection requirements depending on their age, marital status and overall health.

Construction companies can realistically deliver health care benefits to all employees without breaking the bank, which is becoming a more pressing concern every day. With the right delivery model and plans, the costs to provide benefits would be a fraction of those associated with increases in workers’ compensation premiums. It can also help commercial and industrial construction business owners, professionals and industry suppliers offset the opportunity costs of not having the right employees (and enough employees) on the team. It’s a winning bid for all.


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