The modern workforce is changing, at a rate faster than some companies can follow. Offices today are huge, multi-generational affairs. Many UKcompanies engage five generations of employees, from the eager digital natives of Generation Z to experienced baby boomers with decades of professional experience behind them. Providing for all of them requires a flexible, adaptable workplace, and never more so than when it comes to health.
Consider how difficult it is to look after the health provisions of people ranging in age from 18 to 70. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that takes care of healthcare needs from dentistry to cancer care, from orthopaedics to ophthalmology.
At every decade, employees face new milestones that need treatment, whether it be fertility treatment or a hip replacement, but equally, every individual is different and requires their own specialised care. And that’s before we even get into the problems of the UK’s sandwich generation: 2.4 million Brits are actively caring for both children and elderly relatives. They may need healthcare options that can help their families, too.
It’s tempting to leave healthcare to the UK’s existing structures. But the UK’s healthcare provision is far from perfect: according to the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, ageism is now a rising problem in healthcare, and NHS waiting times continue to struggle. In 2018, the wait time for NHS cancer treatments was declared “the worst on record”.
Employees are clamouring for healthcare provisions as part of their contracts. Personal Group found that 40 per cent of staff want health insurance added to their benefits package, and a study specialising in the management of an age-diverse workforce from CIPD found that 50 per cent of staff are excited about the idea of health and protection benefits.
Companies should act now to up their healthcare provision and ensure they’re not left behind – by 2018, more than a quarter of surveyed companies said that they planned to increase investment in health and wellbeing benefits.
But one issue with traditional approaches to healthcare benefits is this vague need for a onesize-fits-all solution. Revolutionising any system is always going to be an enormous and overcomplicated task. That doesn’t mean no one should ever approach it, but if we’re always waiting for one golden solution, we ignore the possibilities for incremental change.
Particularly in industries like healthcare and insurance, which can be so slow to shift, there’s merit in being flexible and adaptable. Instead of worrying about destroying old systems and building them anew, we should think about building up. What do we already have? What can we make out of what already exists?
Here, I’m thinking less about sticky plaster solutions, and more about Lego as a way forward. The building blocks for what we need in terms of great healthcare coverage already exist. We need to fit the right solutions to the right companies, striving to stay adaptable and up to date, which means questioning traditional healthcare coverage. We need to ask who is covered under our current healthcare schemes and who is not.
When we ask, “How many insured lives are in your company? And how many uninsured?”, too many companies can only answer the first question.
The possibilities that a Lego-type, modular approach opens up are vast. This could mean allowing employees to choose which benefits they need, or to deliver elements of benefits packages rather than costly full coverage plans.
It means meeting people where they are, and making sure that benefits are diverse and flexible, offering relevant options to ageing populations options – such as fast access to orthopaedic procedures, or more control over individuals’ health with second medical opinions. It could mean pursuing avenues that cut down on waiting times, like medical travel or other self-pay options.
Most important is to find solutions that smooth over the gaps in our current healthcare provisions; solutions that are inexpensive and easy to apply to a company’s already existent benefits.
Rather than accepting the status quo or waiting passively for revolution, the path forward lies in opening the conversation and working with systems like PMI and the NHS in a constructive way. We don’t have to reinvent the system – we just have to fill the gaps and find new ways to cover more people.
Modern healthcare benefits have to be flexible and adaptable, like the companies they hope to serve.