Almost as a rule, these days when a prospective employee asks an organization “Do you offer health benefits?” what they really mean is, “Do you make group medical insurance available to employees AND do you contribute money toward the premiums?”
In fact, type ‘Define Health Benefits’ into Google and you’ll mainly get health insurance-targeted results.
The time has certainly come for businesses—and individuals—to think differently.
Health benefits in the simplest form are complicated, insofar as they—like any other anticipated business expense—fit into the strategic plans of an organization. With the recent evolution (and heavy politicalization) of medical insurance, health benefits as a tool for recruitment and retention have become even more byzantine and frustrating. And, expensive.
Even companies who can answer, “Yes!” to an inquiry regarding paying toward health benefits may not be providing the degree of employee comfort or peace of mind expected. Because, with the increased reliance on cost-sharing through high-deductibles and co-insurances, simply offering (and subsidizing) health insurance is by no means the safety net or reassuring commodity it once was.
In medicine, I often suggest to young doctors that it is difficult to rule an illness out (or in) with absolute certainty, but rather we primarily are making various diagnoses more or less likely. This thought technique almost demands physicians stay open to the unexpected and to more quickly adopt the atypical rather than be anchored on a wrong diagnosis or treatment plan.
The same technique can, and should, be used in business when exploring opportunities and options to create sustainable, successful employee benefits programs. It’s not thinking outside-the-box, but rather conditioning yourself not to build a box in the first place.
One way a business can strategically plan better is to consider this definition of ‘health benefits’ as an alternative to the existing ‘understood’ meaning: “Health benefits are those initiatives taken by an organization that not only support successful recruitment and retention of employees, but also aim to develop and sustain happy, healthy, and financially-secure individuals.”
By early-adopting this philosophy, you take a first step toward an open-mindedness that you can package, that demonstrates sensitivity to the pain points of businesses and employees alike. This is especially important for smaller businesses who continue to struggle with innovative ways to support talented staff, but is relevant for all.