Our employees pay too much for healthcare

As their employers, we can help

By Steve Rusckowski | Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Quest Diagnostics

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of society and business – and workforce expectations are no exception.

More than two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, overall population health continues to suffer in part due to delayed healthcare. By delaying care and routine health screenings, both chronic conditions and new diagnosis have gone untreated.

As employers, we need to support our employees to help address this hidden epidemic and get back to prioritizing preventive care.

Lab testing is an important part of improving health and wellness, but employees throughout the nation who are covered by employer-based health plans pay millions in unnecessary out-of-pocket costs each year by not realizing options available within their network or price fluctuations for services within a network, creating yet another barrier to care.

This is a challenging time for all employers dealing with a tight labor market that has reached record numbers of job openings and worker resignations leading to massive shortages of available workers.

To better understand the primary concerns and desires of employers and employees regarding benefits, employer health programs and safety in the workplace, Quest Diagnostics commissioned a survey of over 400 human resources benefits managers and executives with decision-making authority (HREs) and nearly 850 office workers (employees) at companies with at least 100 workers.

Quest Diagnostics. (Photo: Karl L. Moore/Mooreshots LLC)

Our survey found that more than three in four (78%) HREs say their organization has been impacted by the “Great Resignation” that is occurring across the country and even outside the United States. Most have increased wages and/or added rewards and benefits to counter the trend to attract and retain workers. And yet, their employees may not be getting the message, as nearly two-thirds (66%) say that they are thinking about changing jobs in the next year or have begun or recently completed a job change.

Our study found that 63% of workers put off routine checkups and screenings over the last two years, and 77% said that it was difficult to practice preventive care during the pandemic.

Another finding of the study is that HREs and employees share a concern about healthcare costs, with 87% of HREs and 89% of employees worried healthcare costs will increase this year. Further, nine in ten HREs (90%) and almost nine in ten employees (88%) believe that employers need to be able to control health insurance expenses more.

HREs do appreciate the financial burden of healthcare on their workers. Indeed, over three-quarters (77%) say they want to lower healthcare costs for their employees, but don’t have the tools to do so.

As employers we must take the steps necessary to educate employees about their healthcare coverage and reinforce individual employees/patients’ roles in avoiding unnecessary costs. This means employers should establish educational programs that include regular communication through employee channels warning employees about unintended out-of-pocket costs and how to avoid unnecessary charges.

The bottom line is that access to care matters now more than ever. Employers need to get creative and be more proactive to limit out-of-pocket healthcare costs to help diminish barriers to care. In addition to the financial costs to employees and companies, the cost of care poses reputational and employee retention concerns.

Several years ago, we looked at how we could control our own healthcare costs at Quest while maintaining program quality and promoting population health for the 60,000 members of our self-insured health plan.

One way that we approached reducing the cost of care was to look at our own out- of-network spending, including diagnostics testing. Many people may not realize the importance of laboratory testing to inform medical determinations and treatment plans. While the lab industry makes up approximately 3% of healthcare costs, 70% of care-based decisions are informed by diagnostics testing.

By offering quality, innovative healthcare solutions at the right price, employers can help improve the healthcare experience for their employees, minimize out of pocket costs and support them in achieving better outcomes.

We need to bring humanity back into what we do every day and delivering quality care at the right value to our employees and their families is an important part of that promise.





Meadowlands Magazine, the official publication of the Meadowlands Chamber and its affiliate organizations, has proudly served the business community of the Meadowlands region sine 1976. We are among largest business magazine in New Jersey (second by circulation) and offer prime visibility opportunities for businesses to connect with potential customers.