December 19, 2012

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Article

Salt Lake Chamber Launches Employer’s Healthcare Toolbox

Heather Stewart

December 19, 2012


Employers often get year-end sticker shock when they find out how much health insurance premiums are going to cost for the upcoming year. The Salt Lake Chamber aims to take away some of that sting by providing an “Employer’s Toolbox,” a set of online tools intended to help businesses pro-actively offset the yearly increases.

The toolbox “is designed to be read by a non-healthcare executive,” said Wesley Smith, executive vice president of government relations for the Salt Lake Chamber. “There’s a dearth of material out there,” he said—especially concise, informative material that’s easy to digest.

The Employer’s Toolbox covers 12 different topics within four major categories: health and wellness, purchasing insurance, information and transparency, and consumer solutions. Each of these topics discusses methods companies can use to control costs.

“Businesses are just so fatigued with healthcare costs,” said Smith. The chamber has been working for years to address the healthcare system from the policy side, he said, but decided it was time to empower local companies by giving them immediate, concrete suggestions.

“We know there are things that need to change in the system itself, but businesses have asked for some steps they can take to offset their ever-increasing healthcare costs, and that’s what we have delivered,” said Rich McKeown, president and CEO of Leavitt Partners and the chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Health System Reform Task Force.

Smith said the toolbox provides four things for each topic: a definition of what it is (for example, a health savings account), an explanation of how it can save a company money, directions for getting started, and a list of local businesses that are using the strategy and would be willing to provide advice.

The “Health and Wellness” section covers topics ranging from onsite health clinics to workplace wellness plans. The “Purchasing Insurance” portion addresses Avenue H, the state’s health insurance exchange, which enables small businesses to transition from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan. With the employer offering a set amount of money, employees can choose their own plan on Avenue H, picking up the cost not covered by the employer’s contribution.

For larger businesses, the “Purchasing Insurance” section also describes the benefits and risks of transitioning to a self-funded plan.

Under “Information and Transparency,” the toolbox discusses the Clinical Health Information Exchange (CHIE), an electronic health information exchange that, with a patient’s permission, gives medical providers access to the patient’s health history, including medications, lab tests, imaging reports, etc. Access to this full history can prevent duplicate testing and help reduce healthcare costs overall.

UtahHealthScape is another transparency tool. It lets people find providers and health plans based on their location, preferences and objective quality scores.

“Small businesses will want to use consumerism to keep costs down,” said Smith. This may include turning to Avenue H and encouraging employees to explore UtahHealthScape. Under the “Consumer Solutions” section, companies can also find out more about health savings accounts, which tend to encourage wise consumption of healthcare.

Smith said the chamber is continually updating the toolbox and has already received suggestions for new topics to include.

“The bottom line is businesses can do something with their purchasing power, and they can do it now,” he said.

The Employer’s Toolbox is available online at www.slchamber.com/toolbox">www.slchamber.com/toolbox.

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