Across the nation, employee engagement is becoming an increasingly larger focus in the population health space. After all, the most important stakeholder in reducing healthcare costs for your organization is the employee. For many HR professionals, they know they need to engage with their employees to reduce healthcare costs, but they’re not sure where to begin.

There are certain topics nested within the healthcare umbrella that are sometimes difficult to approach but can be beneficial for both parties to discuss. For example, employers who self-fund their insurance plans often find it necessary to engage employees on the topic of their prescription drugs because it can be beneficial for both parties to have that conversation. Let’s break down how and why an employer might want to have that conversation.

Why Prescription Drug Costs Matter

Employers that fund their healthcare plans spend a lot of money on prescription drugs specifically. A recent study reported that a large majority of U.S. employers attributed nearly a 20% of their overall healthcare costs to prescriptions filled by members. That’s a huge amount of a company’s budget singularly dedicated to fulfilling prescription costs.

Of course, even when looking to contain bottom-line healthcare costs, the health and wellness of employees should always be at the forefront of employers’ minds. A healthy employee is a productive employee and anyone looking to contain healthcare costs should make sure that their efforts are not impeding on the basic necessities that the member population needs to function at their best. However, for employers looking to make a dent in the healthcare spend they find to be unnecessary, prescription drug prices are an often underutilized target.

Just how much can employers save? Just look at the practice of switching from name-brand to generic prescription drugs, one of the many ways that employers have been working to contain healthcare costs. The FDA reports that generic drugs cost nearly 85% less than their name-brand counterparts, saving the entire U.S. healthcare system a total of $1.67 trillion from 2006 to 2017. But, the conversation can be difficult to have, so when should employers look to inform their members what the plan is?

When to Engage Employees on Prescription Drug Prices

The simple fact is, many members might not even know the areas where they could be saving money. This is where strategic employer engagement can be extremely helpful for teams looking to contain prescription drug costs. Here are a few times when employers should approach the subject with their members:

The hiring process – Prospective employees are increasingly aware of the benefits that employers offer when looking to change jobs. This is the perfect time for employers to be upfront about the offered healthcare plans. Different tiers of prescription drugs at its core is a choice, which can be seen as a welcome flexibility to prospective talent.

New employee onboarding – Once an employee has signed their new hire paperwork, the employer has another great opportunity to engage with them about the benefits they have available. This introductory, onboarding period of the employee’s first few weeks are when they generally try and make sense of all their new benefits, and would lend itself perfectly for a conversation about the flexibility that the members have in choosing which prescription is best for them, whether that be a generic or name-brand drug.

Around open enrollment – Everyone is talking about healthcare around and during the open enrollment period. Even though things don’t officially open up until later in the year, the news starts airing stories around September and October so it’s healthcare is on people’s minds. This time of year is great for employers looking for a reason to have a chat with their employees about any healthcare related issues.

How to Engage Employees on Prescription Drug Prices

Determining when to engage employees on healthcare issues is only half the battle, choosing how to do it is another step entirely. Healthcare information needs to be handled with all the privacy and importance that HIPAA requires, so keep that privacy need in mind through these next communication options.

Email and chat messages – One of the best ways to reach employees is through the inbox that they use the most. When the time is right, a friendly reminder for employees to reassess their health plans to see where they could be saving money could be very welcome to some team members who didn’t know about the prescription drug options.

Mailed letters – For a more targeted approach, employers can work with TPAs or on their own to mail letters to health plan members. Using a health intelligence software like Springbuk can give be used by employers to give third party administrators and other wellness vendors the data they need to find members who have generic prescription options available and let them know through a discrete letter in the mail.

The subject of switching prescription drugs to generic when possible isn’t something that comes up in conversation daily, but these ideas on when and how to do it should help any employer looking to contain their healthcare costs in healthy ways.