A lot has changed across the American healthcare landscape since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some of it has been good, and some of it has been bad. No surprises there. But among the things that have surprised us are the emergence of telemedicine and self-funded health plans. It turns out the two go together very well.
For the record, both telemedicine and self-funded health plans existed before the ACA. But both operated in the shadows, so to speak. The ACA helped self-funded health plans emerge from the shadows while it took the COVID pandemic to bring telemedicine to the forefront.
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Assuming you are not a health benefits broker, you may know very little about self-funded health plans. A self-funded plan is just as its name implies: it is a health plan funded primarily by an employer rather than obtained through a group health insurance benefits carrier.
Self-funded plans can be administered by employers themselves. More often than not though, employers contract with companies like StarMed to handle benefits administration for them. The contracting administration guarantees that benefit plans will be ACA-compliant.
Employers choose self-funded health plans for a variety of reasons. The top two motivations are financial savings and customization capabilities. In terms of financial savings, companies have a lot more control over what they spend on healthcare through self-funded plans. They can offer their employees quality health benefits while keeping costs under control.
Cost savings are related to planning customization. Rather than having to accept a one-size-fits-all package from an insurance company, an employer who chooses the self-funded route can mix and match benefits to meet the needs of most workers. The employer can also choose benefit options that offer good value without busting the budget.
Moving on to telemedicine is a way to deliver primary care services without requiring patients to actually visit the doctor’s office. Although telemedicine technology has been around for more than 50 years, the U.S. healthcare system has been historically reluctant to adopt it. But the system was forced to adopt it when the COVID pandemic hit.
Lo and behold, everyone from primary care physicians to hospital administrators discovered that telemedicine actually does work. They also discovered that it is less costly than the traditional office visit. Finally, they discovered that patients actually want access to telemedicine services.
It turns out that self-funded health plans and telemedicine go very well together. It is almost like they were made for each other. In a self-funded scenario, employers are looking to meet the basic healthcare needs of their employees in a cost-effective way. Telemedicine works extremely well with that strategy.
By offering unlimited telemedicine visits at no additional charge and with no copay, StarMed plans give subscribers convenient access to primary care in a remote setting. As a result, they also offer subscribers two distinct advantages:
- access to primary care without additional stress on the budget, and
- the ability to access primary care more conveniently and on their own schedules.
This is exactly the sort of thing the modern workforce is after. Employees are no longer content to have insurance companies dictate their access to healthcare services. They want to be in control. They deserve to be in control.
Both self-funded health plans and telemedicine are finally coming into their own. That is good all by itself. But it is made better by the fact that the two work so well together for the benefit of those who use them.