New white paper finds link between community and employee health

A new analysis reveals that employees who live in less healthy states may cost their employers more and have more social determinants of health risks.

A new white paper by Health Action Council (HAC) and UnitedHealthcare finds that social determinants of health (SDOH) are contributing to poorer health outcomes and higher costs for employees. The analysis explored HAC plan sponsor claims data associated with 217,779 employees, which revealed that employees who live in states with lower health rankings tend to have higher rates of SDOH risk.

For example, those living in the 10 least healthy states were 13% more likely to face high SDOH risk.1 Alternatively, if the population analyzed lived in the top 20 healthiest-ranked states, the total covered per member per month (PMPM) cost may be reduced by $61M — 7% of spend or $24 PMPM.

That means that the health of the state in which employees live may lead to increased health challenges and higher costs for both employees and employers. Put another way, employees who live in less healthy states may cost employers more.

The report also found generational differences, with younger employees having increased SDOH risks compared to Baby Boomers. The greatest per capita cost difference was seen among Generation X populations, where those living with a SDOH risk were 23% more expensive.

3 takeaways for employers

The white paper highlights a few clear actions employers can take to help better care for the health of their employees who live in less healthy states while also managing their bottom line.

1. Understand where employees call home

When employers understand where their employees live and what sorts of community health challenges and SDOH risks they may face, they may be better equipped to address them. One way to do this is to survey employees during open enrollment, which may provide hints that could help determine what SDOH risks employees may be facing long before any claims are submitted.

2. Address employees’ SDOH risks proactively

Employers can address SDOH risks by offering a health plan and network that provides its employees access to care they need at a price they can afford. If employers decide to conduct an employee survey, the results may also offer insights on additional benefits that may be helpful. For instance, more flexible work hours could prove helpful to those with transportation needs, while a subsidized gym membership could help address social isolation concerns.

3. Boost health literacy

Employees can’t utilize their benefits if they don’t know how to access them, so it’s critical that employers devote some time and energy to upping their workforce’s health literacy. By providing better and more consistent benefits education throughout the year, they may see better engagement with their health plans, which may result in potentially better outcomes and lower costs. The Health Activation Index® (HAI®) tool from UnitedHealthcare may help gauge where a workforce is with health literacy since it analyzes the performance of employee health choices and summarizes them into a unique score.

Current broker or employer group client?

Access uhceservices to check commissions, manage eligibility, request ID cards and more.