Health cash plans: How to select the right plan for staff

If you read nothing else, read this…

• Health screenings, online risk assessments and medical questionnaires are first-step options to determine employees’ health profiles before introducing a health cash plan.

• Including relevant and valued health benefits in the cash plan will boost staff engagement and ensure a higher return on investment.

• A health cash plan can evolve according to employees’ health issues to ensure it is being used and valued


Barhale builds flexibility into health cash plan

Construction company Barhale has built a health cash plan from scratch to suit its workforce.

The firm offers its 600 senior staff a private medical insurance (PMI) scheme, but it has also introduced Westfield Health’s Mosaic cash plan, using intermediary PMI Health, to provide healthcare benefits for its 400 weekly-paid staff.

The health cash plan provides access to physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropody, which is ideal for construction workers whose common ailments include back problems and musculoskeletal injuries.

As employees’ health issues change, the health cash plan can be adjusted too. This ensures that staff continue to get the most out of their health benefits.

Jim Drain, HR manager at Barhale, says: “The flexibility of the plan meant we could tailor it, so our staff could access services such as physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropody, while making the most of traditional benefits such as dental and optical.”

Assessing employees’ health profile is a practical first step in selecting a health cash plan, says Jennifer Paterson

Health cash plans have evolved from a basic method of offering a standard list of health benefits into, in many cases, modular, do-it-yourself packages.

Terry Hardy, president of the British Health Care Association (BHCA), says: “Health cash plans now tend to include things that are outside what used to be the core benefits available. They used to [primarily] offer things like optical and dental benefits, and hospitalisation. They are now expanding into areas such as medical advice lines, counselling services and risk assessments.”

Despite the greater sophistication of health cash plans, employers must get a real picture of their employees’ health issues to ensure they choose a plan that offers the right perks to get the best value from their spend.

Health screening and online health risk assessments are an ideal starting point for understanding an employee’s health profile and their resulting needs. Dr Soniya Saha, medical director at Screenetics, says: “It is great to tailor the cash plan according to the actual needs of the employee base and what the priorities should be.”

Tal Gilbert, head of research and development at Pruhealth, agrees that the goal of such health assessments and online questionnaires is to give the employer a targeted assessment of which health benefits are of most value to its workforce.

Risk assessment

“We do an assessment of their health risks and point them towards the things most beneficial to them,” he explains. “We also provide reports to the employer that show what the risks are among its employees. It should be aware of that and address it.”

Health screening for employees can be delivered onsite or at a clinic. These are designed to identify problems at an early stage, or even before they arise, enabling staff to understand their health risks and make healthy choices.

Randox Health Checks, for instance, provides diagnostic health assessments that look at blood analysis to detect early signs of long-term disease. The assessments’ screening for cardiovascular disease measures triglycerides (harmful fat) and lipoproteins (a combination of fat and protein), as well as the standard cholesterol tests. It detects tiny changes in cardiac enzymes, a marker for the early stages of heart disease.

Valerie Phillips, head of business at Randox Health Checks, says: “Diagnostic health assessments are very relevant to health cash plans because they give an accurate picture of the current health status of the workforce. These can also identify early biomarkers of disease, so employers can design targeted and accurate interventions.”

Online health risk assessments can also determine which benefits will provide the most value in a cash plan. For instance, staff can create a personalised health profile by using an online assessment to log personal details such as their height, weight, sleeping patterns, and eating and drinking habits. Providers of these services can then present the employer with a health report detailing any prevailing health risks that are affecting their workforce.

Improvements in health

Paul Shires, executive director, sales and marketing at Westfield Health, explains: “This is a starting point so improvements in staff health can be measured. And it is a starting point for organisations to design their own cash plan.”

Some health screening providers offer an anonymous medical questionnaire, which includes an ongoing health and lifestyle assessment focusing on employees’ medical history, health status, lifestyle habits and work-life balance.

Kevin Hollick, director at Screenetics, says: “Employers can tailor the medical questionnaire to cover things like stress and back problems. They can then build up a picture of where their employees’ problems lie and choose what they need in the health cash plan. This provides a much higher return on investment.

“Some organisations have a scatter-gun approach and are not sure where their problems lie. With health screening, they are targeting what the common problem is within their workforce.”

Employees are more likely to be engaged in health benefits if they have access to a cash plan offering relevant perks, says Pruhealth’s Gilbert. “Employers spend a lot of money on health benefits, but staff often do not see the value. Making sure that they use appropriate benefits is critical to getting the right level of employee engagement. Health screening is a way to direct employees to the right activities for them so they are more likely to use them.

Options available as a first step

• Health screening: A one-off health check that identifies existing health problems or flags up problems before they arise. The results can be used to inform the make-up of a health cash plan.

• Online risk assessment: An assessment that enables employees to learn more about their health risks and understand the impact of their lifestyle on their health. Employers are given a report on their staff, which can then be used to ensure a health cash plan includes useful benefits.

• Medical questionnaire: An anonymous way to gather first-hand medical information on a workforce, the results of which can be used to put together an appropriate health cash plan.

Read more on health cash plans