Warren Buffet famously said, “GM is a health and benefits company with an auto company attached”. GM spends more on healthcare than steel, Starbucks spends more on healthcare than coffee beans, and I bet your company spends more on healthcare than other major expenses. HR innovators recognize that healthcare spending is often one of the largest expenses on the P&L. They work with their executive team to give it the same attention and professional consulting they give other areas further down the list of expenses, and it all starts with asking the right questions. Consider how:

  • Purdue University saved $149M with $50 million in employee savings since 2016 while improving benefits
  • Employee Solutions lowered its monthly healthcare cost per employee 56% in three years while improving benefits
  • BevCap saved its members $98 million while offering differentiated benefits like $0 imaging, surgery, and PT

HR innovators achieve remarkable results by asking health plan questions related to finances, benefit design, and employee experience. Ask your health insurance broker or consultant these questions to offer differentiated benefits while freeing up money for your budget.

Financial Questions

Who’s earning interest on our premiums?

When you send premiums to your health insurer every month, that money goes into their bank account where it sits and grows with interest for your health insurer. HR innovators help their company keep the interest earned on their premium dollars, lowering their net healthcare costs and freeing up room in their budget.

Are our premiums paying other companies’ healthcare bills?

Companies’ health insurance premiums are often high even when their underlying healthcare costs are low. This is because their premiums are being used to subsidize other organizations’ large healthcare costs. HR innovators reduce their company’s exposure to risk posed by other populations, lowering their net healthcare costs and freeing up room in their budget.

Will we get refunded if our healthcare costs are lower than our premiums?

When a company’s healthcare costs are lower than the premiums they paid their health insurer, their health insurer keeps some or all of the difference. Imagine over paying your credit card bill, and then the credit card company refusing to credit your account or refund your money. HR innovators help their company retain 100% of unused health insurance premiums, lowering their net healthcare costs and freeing up room in their budget.

Benefit Design Questions

Can we offer employees best-in-class care for $0?

Cost and quality have no correlation in healthcare. In fact, the highest quality clinicians and facilities are often the lowest cost. When employees seek medical care, they usually gamble on quality, relying on Yelp reviews or recommendations from friends & family instead of utilizing clinical quality metrics. HR innovators offer employees the option to access top quality, cost efficient clinicians and facilities for $0 out-of-pocket as an additional benefit to their health plan, improving retention while lowering net healthcare costs.

Can we help employees get medications for $0?

Depending on where and how a medication is filled, the price can fluctuate drastically. Consider that the cancer drug Gleevac went generic in 2016 and can be purchased for $55 a month, but many insurance plans are paying more than 100 times that. HR innovators include a $0 copay benefit when employees fill their medication using the lowest net-cost pharmacy, improving retention while lowering net healthcare costs.

Will a Qualified High Deductible Health Plan (QHDHP or HSA plan) lower our healthcare costs or just shift them onto employees?

When a company’s budget can’t absorb their entire post-negotiated health insurance renewal increase, they often resort to reducing benefits for employees. This has been the case for so long that 45% of U.S. households don’t have enough liquid assets to pay the average health plan deductible. HR innovators prioritize lowering their underlying healthcare costs over shifting increased costs onto employees, improving retention while lowering net healthcare costs.

Employee Experience Questions

How can we improve customer service for our employees?

Employees often struggle getting straight answers from their health insurance when trying to understand their coverage or a bill. Just getting through phone prompts requires a time commitment and prepared, accessible knowledge. HR innovators implement easily accessible, highly trained customer service teams within their health plan administrator, turning a stressful life event into unprecedented employee loyalty.

Can we have billing advocates help with employees’ out-of-pocket expenses?

Out-of-pocket healthcare expenses can cause stress, hurting employees’ well-being and work performance. 41% of Americans are in some sort of healthcare debt today. HR innovators include billing advocates in their health plan that proactively reach out to employees to negotiate and potentially eliminate employees’ large healthcare bills, turning a stressful life event into unprecedented employee loyalty.

Final Thoughts

By taking a modern approach to health insurance, with a human-centered benefit design, HR innovators are gaining an edge in talent retention while improving their company’s bottom line. Ask your benefits broker or consultant these questions to escape the annual health insurance renewal fire drill, and achieve the same remarkable results as other HR innovators.


Hunter Gurney leads Gurney Benefits, an employee benefits advising and brokerage firm. Gurney Benefits helps clients take a modern, human-centered approach to benefits design. Gurney Benefits offers a full suite of benefit and HR solutions for compliance, technology, and engagement along with easy access to hundreds of medications and services like surgery, labs, and imaging for $0.