It’s Time for Corporate America to Help its Workers with Caregiving

 

Almost three out of four American workers are juggling some type of caregiving responsibility – either caring for children, aging parents, or a spouse or partner. Yet companies remain unaware of the burden this places on the workforce, and worse, they are doing little to alleviate the stress that caregiving causes their employees. These are among the findings of a study recently published by the Harvard Business School.

The study found a huge disconnect between workers’ experiences and employers’ perceptions. For example, only 24% of employers believe that caregiving affects their workforce’s productivity, while 80% of employees admit that their caregiving responsibilities do in fact interfere with their work performance.

Beyond performance, the study found that caregiving responsibilities also derail careers for workers of all ages. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said they had left a job because of the demands of caregiving. While the birth or adoption of a child were among the top reasons cited for leaving, one third reported leaving a job to care for an elder, while a quarter said they left a job to care for an ill spouse, partner or other family member.

The cost to business is multifaceted. High turnover, loss of institutional knowledge, absenteeism and presenteeism were among the hidden costs – often difficult to quantify – identified by the study’s authors as consequences of a workforce that struggles with caregiving.

The good news is that employers can help employees effectively manage both their caregiving responsibilities and the demands of their jobs by providing benefits that assist them with their roles as caregivers. We’re not there yet, but the resources are available.

Few employers offer the types of benefits that directly address caregivers’ needs; of those that do, high percentages of employees take advantage of them, according to the survey. Healthcare coordination and advocacy, when offered as part of an employee benefit package, can provide workers with assistance, resources and peace of mind to allow them to focus fully on their jobs while they are at work. Advocates can work with and through Human Resources Departments to offer their services to employees as needed. When the costs of caregiving are considered, it becomes clear that offering access to advocates as an employee benefit is not only an asset to the employee, but it’s also good for the bottom line.

For additional information, please contact me at 516-584-2007 or email nicole@careanswered.com.

Women’s History Month Panel Shines a Light on Healthcare Disparities

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate as a panelist in a discussion on diversity, women’s issues, and entrepreneurship. The panel was part of a Women’s History Month presentation to the Health & Business Alliance, a trade and networking group to which I belong. My co-panelists, Lauren Tanen and Susan Ganz, each brought their own unique perspective on the challenges that confront many women as well as people of color as they navigate their workplaces, healthcare and educational institutions, and other parts of their lives.

My own contribution to the panel centered on healthcare disparities. African Americans have a 40% greater risk than whites of getting high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, heart failure, kidney disease and stroke. African Americans are also twice as likely as whites to be diabetic, which leads to a host of serious medical complications.

Last year, the New York Times ran a feature report called “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies are in a Life-and-Death Crisis.” In an article full of shocking statistics, this one stands out: Black infants in America are more than twice as likely to die as white infants. But what’s even more shocking is the fact that this disparity has actually increased in the past century and a half, since statistics like this were first recorded in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery.

And these disparities extend to other minority groups as well. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that compared to whites, Hispanics are about 50% more likely to die of diabetes or liver disease.

These ongoing inequities are part of what drives me to continue my professional quest as a healthcare advocate. A significant part of what I do is to advocate for patients, whoever they are, whenever and wherever they interact with the healthcare system.

It is essential that every person fully understands the information presented by medical professionals and is able to carry out the doctors’ recommendations. Our American healthcare system is complex, involving interactions with insurance companies, government payers, employers, healthcare providers, pharmacies, medical device companies, long term care providers, assisted living centers, rehabilitation facilities, home care agencies, and more. I specialize in helping clients cut through the clutter so that they are armed with clear, understandable information and are empowered to make the healthcare decisions that are best for them and their families.

I’d love to hear about your experiences. Whether you are a man or a woman, member of a minority group or not, what has it been like for you when dealing with a doctor, hospital, school, workplace, government agency or other institution? Did you feel heard, respected, and understood, or marginalized? By sharing our stories, as I and my fellow panelists did, and speaking up for one another, I believe we will begin to make a much needed change.

 

How Healthcare Advocacy Can Benefit Your Employees

Our healthcare system is growing more and more complex. Medical breakthroughs create new treatment options to consider. Regulatory reforms are changing the way physicians practice, while economic factors impact on the way insurance companies pay for the services we receive. The outcomes of the choices and decisions we make can truly be life altering. These are important and complicated issues.

At the same time, healthcare costs continue to be a concern for companies and workers alike.

To help address these complicated issues, many employers have begun offering healthcare advocacy services as an employee benefit.

Healthcare advocates can save time and money for both employers and employees. They do this by:

  • Reducing stress and improving productivity for employees
  • Helping employees select lowest cost, highest quality providers and facilities
  • Providing healthcare navigation for employees and their family members, including aging relatives
  • Reviewing medical bills for accuracy
  • Answering questions that would otherwise require handling by internal human resources staff

 

Offering healthcare advocacy as an employee benefit is cost-effective. Advocacy services can be added to a benefits package for just a few dollars per employee per month.

According to a 2017 survey by consulting firm Mercer, nearly half of employers with 500 or more employees offer healthcare advocacy services as part of their benefits package. Among very large employers – those with 20,000 workers or more – 60% offer advocacy as a benefit.

The advantages are magnified for smaller employers. If even one key employee at a smaller company needs healthcare advocacy for themselves or a family member, providing the service so that the employee can focus fully on their work can mean the difference between continued success and financial devastation for a small company.

To learn more about how healthcare advocacy could benefit your workforce, contact Care Answered.