5 Ways ACA Can Drive Innovation in Your Benefits Program

5 Ways ACA Can Drive Innovation in Your Benefits Program

The ACA’s Cadillac Tax may very well be the tipping point for a completely new approach to employer-sponsored health coverage. Not only could you have to make dramatic changes in your benefit plan design, your employees could also have to make dramatic changes in the way they consume healthcare. And they need your help to do that. This is your chance to be a hero.

Think of the ACA disruption as an opportunity for you to redefine what a benefits program can be. The need for change is driving some exciting innovations in personal healthcare, and you can take the lead in incorporating them into the workplace. Below are five emerging trends that could make a huge difference for your employees as they enter a new era of healthcare consumerism.

Benefits Offerings That Can Improve Employee Consumption

Retail Clinics

Also known as convenient care clinics, these provide a lower-cost alternative to urgent care or emergency room visits where physician assistants and/or registered nurses provide primary care services. Usually located in spaces such as pharmacies, drug stores, supermarkets, big box retailers and other high-traffic retail settings, retail clinics offer easy access to basic treatment for common ailments, as well as preventive, wellness and chronic disease care.

With significant cost savings to be had all around, partnering with retail clinics should most definitely be on your company’s radar. If you’re already covering such services, as many employers are, consider providing a financial incentive (for visits to the retail clinic instead of a physician’s office) to drive adoption. Your employees will thank you, and so will your healthcare budget.


Healthcare remains one of the few industries where “brick and mortar” is the primary method for receiving services. However, with the advent of telemedicine, employees can obtain a majority of brick-and-mortar services virtually and for a fraction of the cost of an in-person visit to a doctor’s office. Telemedicine lets your employees use their mobile devices to talk, text or video chat with a doctor, share photos and test results, and get immediate answers, treatment and referrals for things that used to require driving across town and sitting in a waiting room for an hour.

It’s actually estimated that 70% of all doctor visits could be replaced with telemedicine, so what are you waiting for? By adding telemedicine services to your benefits mix, you can give your employees much more affordable access to the care they need and significantly reduce the likelihood of delayed or skipped treatment, which ultimately means less absenteeism and more productivity.

Digital Rx

Access to low-cost medication is equally as important as quality health care. “Digital Rx” tools allow employees and their families to search for prescription drug prices via a mobile app. These solutions assist individuals in finding a list of all pharmacies in the local area, helping them identify:

  • Location offering the best price for their particular medications (as all generics are not priced the same)
  • Any therapeutic or over-the-counter alternatives which could lower the price further
  • How dosage or pill splitting may impact out-of-pocket costs

In the high-deductible world of CDHPs, it’s vital that you help your employees take an active role in shopping around for their healthcare needs. Digital Rx is a great way to do that.


The equivalent of a car’s dashboard, wearables represent a healthcare dashboard. These devices (smart watches, fitness bracelets, clothing sensors, etc.) track physical activity, heart rate and more, and provide alerts when your body requires action. In the consumer health self-service world, the better your employees can measure, the better they can manage – and the more your company can save.

With so many tech companies getting into the wearables game, this trend is only going to grow stronger, and your organization has everything to gain by encouraging it among your workforce. Some organizations are already incorporating wearables into their corporate wellness program, providing subsidies to help employees purchase devices and offering rewards for the achievement of different fitness goals. While active monitoring of wearable-generated data will continue to be an area of debate (as it relates to privacy), what is certain is that wearables can make it a lot easier – and more fun – for your employees to practice healthy behavior.

Transparency Tools

When significant medical events occur, which cannot be addressed via retail clinics or telemedicine, employees can now access medical cost transparency tools, where they can evaluate the prices of procedures, check online reviews and examine physician resumes. Healthcare cost transparency is aimed at mirroring the same transparency found on shopping comparison sites common in the retail industry for travel (Expedia, Kayak), clothing (Zappos) and commercial goods (Amazon, eBay).

While these tools can be an excellent resource for your employees throughout the plan year, transparency starts at enrollment. By providing a consumer-centric enrollment experience, through technology that allows employees to easily compare health plans and estimate out-of-pocket costs, you can help employees better identify their coverage needs and prepare for the year ahead.

Don’t get left behind!

To be sure, the ACA has come with its fair share of logistical headaches, but it also has paved the way to a future in which Americans will essentially consume healthcare like they consume any other product. By being proactive and exploring how you can integrate these innovations into your company’s benefits program, you can help your employees embrace the change and make decisions that will keep them healthy, happy and productive. Their costs will go down, your company’s costs will go down, and satisfaction and loyalty will go way up.

Want to learn more about how the ACA can be a catalyst for positive change in your organization? Sign up for this Wednesday’s free webinar, Next-Gen ACA: How to Do More than Just Comply.