Health coverage is widely considered to be the most important employee benefit. As a result, employers often find that offering health insurance helps them better attract and retain top talent.

When it comes to selecting a health plan, health benefit managers want to find one that best meets the needs of their organization as well as their employees. However, health insurance can be complex and complicated. Plus, one must first make sense of the options, and there are lots of them.

“It’s important for employers to understand that not all health insurance companies are the same,” said Richard Argentieri, Vice President of Sales, Independent Health. “There’s a wide array of plans, providers and coverage options to choose from. Navigating among them can be difficult. In order to make a choice that is right for your business and employees, look at the full picture when making health coverage decisions.”

According to Argentieri, health care decision makers should keep these three questions in mind when researching and comparing health plans:

Question 1: What plan provides the best value for your health care dollar?

With health care being among the fastest-growing costs for businesses across the nation, employers must look beyond premiums and deeper into the value-added benefits, copayments, coinsurance and deductibles of the plan options.

“While the premium of a plan is certainly a factor that has to be weighed, quality and value should be considered as well,” said Argentieri. “Lower premium plans tend to have higher out-of-pocket costs. On the other hand, higher premium plans often offer enhanced services and greater value.”

A recent report by Integrated Benefits Institute found that lost productivity from illness costs employers $530 billion annually, or 60 cents for every dollar they spend on health coverage.

Therefore, Argentieri says it’s also a good idea for employers to check to see if a plan offers resources, tools and programs that can help keep their employees as healthy and productive as possible.

“Some health plans do a better job than others of helping members take charge of their health and better manage prevalent and costly chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart disease. This should definitely be a key factor for every health benefit manager since there’s such a strong link between better health and better job performance,” said Argentieri.

Question 2: How well does a plan collaborate or coordinate with physicians?

Poorly managed chronic conditions can lead to unnecessary health care costs in terms of unmet medical needs and complications.  Health plans that provide physicians with the right information, support and care coordination can lead to more proactive management of medical conditions, better communication among doctors and better outcomes.  Provider perspectives and opinions on which plans work better with providers can be a helpful guide to the right health plan. 

“Choosing a plan that has a strong, collaborative relationship with providers can result in better coordinated care for your employees and lower overall costs,”

-Rich Argentieri, Independent Health’s vice president of sales

Question 3: What plan offers the best customer service?

Due to the complexity of the health care industry, employers and their employees will have questions and need help somewhere along the way. Pick a plan that understands the local market and has a reputation for excellence in member service and satisfaction so when you have questions, getting answers is easy.

“The fewer customer service issues your employees have, the fewer issues you’ll have to deal from a human resources perspective,” said Argentieri. “You can often rely on annual third-party rankings and customer satisfaction survey results – such as the NCQA Health Insurance Plan Ratings, J.D. Power’s Commercial Member Health Plan StudySM and New York Consumer Guide to Health Insurers – to learn how pleased a membership is with a plan’s overall performance. This is a good indication of how satisfied you and your employees will be, and how well they may be taken care of when they need services.”

Choosing the right health plan is an important decision for employees and businesses alike. By asking a few simple questions and doing a little homework, health benefit managers will be well-positioned to make the right choice for everyone.