Through personalized decision support, employers can give all employees the opportunity to choose the health plan that works best for them. This drives equity in the workplace.
As a gateway to health and a barrier against financial insecurity, health insurance is one of the biggest tools that employers have for promoting employee health and wealth equity. Importantly, while making sure employees all have access to health benefits is a foundational step towards equality, it is not enough. Employers need to focus on benefits being equitable rather than just equal (e.g., the same for everyone).
Health benefit equity means that everyone not only has access to health benefits, but they also have an equal opportunity to take advantage of those benefits.
To drive workplace equity, business leaders need to recognize how an employee’s life situation (income, family structure, gender, race, location, health status) and the employer’s benefit structure can differentially impact employees’ ability to optimally choose and use their health plans. Plan design improvements, like income-based contributions, can go a long way toward promoting equity in the workplace. So too can health plan decision support.
Decision support helps employees choose a plan where they get the care they need at the lowest cost. Several studies have shown that people rarely choose the best-value health plan. And troublingly, lower income populations are disproportionately likely to buy more health insurance than they need, which can contribute to a widening health and wealth gap.
This is where personalized decision support comes into play. Effective decision support empowers consumers to choose a plan that is in their best interest. Decision support drives benefit equity by helping employees overcome barriers to optimal selection, like lower health literacy, time constraints, and rational aversion to high deductible health plans.
Importantly though, effective decision support relies on personalization—on decision support that is tailored to individual needs and circumstances.
Here’s why personalized decision support drives health equity:
- It provides education and support that is tailored to individuals. At its heart, decision support is about education—a consistently powerful lever for promoting equity. Decision support helps people learn about their health benefits: what they include and what they cost. Personalized decision support takes this a step further because it responds to people’s different educational needs in a couple ways. For one, employees can speak with a live person at any point in the process, so everyone can get the support they need. Given today’s virtual world, this matters more than ever. Personalized decision support also means that people receive education that fits their choices—it brings the resources they specifically need to their fingertips. So if, for example, they choose an HSA-eligible plan, they’ll receive resources that speak to the value of an HSA.
- It focuses on individual needs and circumstances. Recommending a health plan for someone without accounting for their unique circumstances is not equitable. After all, everyone has different health needs and financial constraints. The optimal health plan for one person will be different for another. Personalized decision support identifies someone’s optimal health plan based on their individual medical usage data—how many doctor’s visits they usually have, the medications they take, and the life events they’ll likely face. This personalized recommendation gives employees the opportunity to choose a health plan that matches their specific needs. That focus on specific need is what sets equity apart from equality and makes it a fundamental driver for social good.
- It overwhelmingly makes it more likely that people will act in their best interests. Receiving a health or financial recommendation and adopting a new behavior, even when it’s known to be in one’s best interest, requires dramatic autonomy and an extra level of social support. Any patient-doctor conversation or new year’s resolution is evidence that this behavior change is a challenge. Personalized decision support tailors education and guidance to an individual and their needs. It also helps identify and address perceived barriers and motivate individuals to change their circumstances and take the initiative on choices that benefit their livelihood.
- It can address health insurance literacy barriers that cause people to avoid care. People with lower health insurance literacy (the ability to process health insurance information well enough to make informed decisions) are more likely to avoid both preventive and non-preventive care because of costs. Personalized education can help more consumers understand health insurance, make an informed decision about their choice, and in turn become more likely to seek needed care.
For a seemingly small intervention, personalized decision support can have an immediate and big impact on equity in the workplace.
More and more businesses are speaking up about the need to rethink their approach to DEI in the workplace. People are acknowledging where DEI programs have failed in the past and actively seeking solutions that go beyond performative statements and actions to drive real and sustainable change. Support with one of the most critical decisions a person makes every year—one that defines both their wellbeing and budget—can really equalize the playing field.
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