skinnyplansNow that employers have had time to evaluate the new benefit plan requirements under PPACA, many have come to a decision as to what level of health benefits they will offer employees. Some employers have decided to pay the higher premiums in order to offer the mandated level of coverage, some have sent employees to the insurance exchanges to choose a plan, and others are offering what are being called “skinny plans”. These bare bones plans have a very limited level of coverage yet offer just enough that employers avoid the penalty for not offering health benefits at all.

To the surprise of many, these skinny plans are growing in popularity, even for large employers. A recent survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health asked a number of employers what types of plans they would be offering to employees in 2015, and 16% indicated they would be offering skinny plans. This acceptance of skinny plans also has key implications for the use and growth of telemedicine as part of employee benefit plans.

As noted in a previous blog, telemedicine or “telehealth” will be key to meeting the growing demand for physician care and alleviating the flood of newly-covered patients to the doctor’s office. However, telemedicine also offers some unique benefits that make it especially beneficial in the use of skinny plans.

When part of a skinny plan, telemedicine proves to be an affordable service for both the employer and the employees. Because the employer’s cost for telemedicine is low relative to the cost of physician networks, telemedicine can be a very cost-effective resource to bundle into a benefit plan and can even replace the typical “face-to-face” visits outlined in a plan. It’s also a very affordable option for employees to use. Telephonic visits are free, and even if the employee decides to do a webcam visit, the copay is still much lower than an average office copay. As a result, telemedicine not only keeps copay costs low for the employee, but also gives the employer a cost-effective way to offer physician access.

Telemedicine also adds a convenience factor for employees and ultimately the employer. Many times, it’s difficult for employees to take off work to see a doctor or to find a doctor that’s close to the work site. With telemedicine, employees can have the convenience of consulting with a doctor anywhere and anytime, even from work. Plus, each telemedicine visit is 10-15 minutes, so employees could easily call during their break or lunch period. As a result, telemedicine offers a more convenient way for employees to quickly get the care they need, while cutting down on call-ins and productivity losses for the employer.

Quality Care
Just because an employee is consulting with a telemedicine doctor doesn’t mean they’re receiving sub-standard care. All telemedicine doctors are board-certified and have extensive patient care experience. Plus, telemedicine doctors are able to write prescriptions and lab referrals, just as any “face to face” doctor would. As a result, employees can get the same standard of care as they would from an onsite doctor, except that telemedicine is less expensive and more convenient.

Because of its affordability, convenience, and quality, telemedicine services will prove to be a valuable resource to include in employee benefit plans and especially in skinny plans, which are tailored to a much more cost-conscious employer and employees. As employers evaluate ways to lower healthcare costs, they’ll find that telemedicine not only helps them with the cost factor, but also provides employees with quality access to care, regardless of the level of coverage.

To see firsthand how telemedicine can play a role in Employee Benefit Portals, contact us.

Related Blogs:

Top 10 Reasons Employers Should Offer Telemedicine

How Telemedicine will Revolutionize Employee Benefits