The Value of a Limited-Benefit Health Plan for Call Centers

By Curt A. Wieden

With the new administration in full swing, both private citizens and public interest groups alike are preparing to listen to possible solutions for this country’s enduring health care crisis. Fortunately, for the call center industry, one practical solution, limited-benefit health plans, has already proven to be a valuable resource for employees.

Limited-benefit health plans are employee-paid insurance plans that provide a broad range of coverage for day-to-day medical expenses. These plans are not meant to replace comprehensive, traditional medical plans that are mostly paid for by the employer.

“Limited-benefit health plans target uninsured hourly workers in high-turnover industries such as restaurant, retail, hospitality, and call centers,” says Nancy Valla, vice president of service operations for CIGNA Voluntary at their headquarters in Phoenix. “They are ideal for these groups because limited-benefit health plans typically cost an employee only one to two hours of their weekly wage.”

Limited-benefit health plans are designed to be affordable, easy-to-understand, and easy-to-use. They typically cover doctor visits, annual wellness exams, inpatient and outpatient care, and prescriptions. Accident and maternity coverage are offered as well.

Phoenix Rising: For call center industry experts, there should be no surprise that the limited-benefit health plan trend has connections to Phoenix, a national hotbed for the call center industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers located in Phoenix’s Maricopa County employ the second-most call center employees in the nation and is home to over 100 call center establishments, leading the nation in that category by a wide margin.

“It is rewarding to be a part of an initiative that has tremendous influence across the industry,” says Valla. “Limited-benefit health plans are a must to increase employee production and operational efficiency, which is even more important now given the state of the economy.”

Catered to the Call Center: It is well documented that call center occupations can be sedentary and not physically demanding, so workers are often not in the best physical shape. With employees enduring long periods of time sitting on the phone, typing, and looking at a computer screen, any proactive steps towards improving their health is beneficial.

“Limited-benefit health plans cover preventative care and wellness exams for employees to identify potential health issues from initial symptoms,” says Valla. “This allows employees to proactively receive proper treatment and medical direction, minimizing unscheduled absences, or working when sick and contagious. These factors negatively influence our productivity rates and call center team morale.”

“For the majority of limited-benefit health plan users, this is their first time having access to the health care system as an adult,” says Valla. “It is important that a limited-benefit health plan offers various means of customer service, including a website, live agents, and interactive voice response assistance. Responsible health care consumers welcome the multiple options available to them, instead of utilizing the emergency room for minor medical issues.”

Bottom-line Business Benefits: Recruiting and retaining talent are some of the most important benefits an employer can reap by offering a limited-benefit health plan. Call center industry employers are demanding a more highly skilled workforce than ever before while still facing the traditional issues surrounding high personnel turnover. An employer can more effectively recruit these highly skilled workers by offering an option to cover their routine medical expenses with an affordably priced plan.

“Seasoned professionals who are entering the call center industry due to the economy are accustomed to their employers offering an option for routine medical coverage,” says Valla. “A limited-benefit health plan establishes that continuity and validity from an employer at a cost the call center employee can afford. Employees with a health plan feel more appreciated and are more likely to stay longer.”

The financial advantage of increased retention is reduced expenses caused by turnover and the constant onboarding of new employees. This result assists greatly in the most important aspects of call center metrics – productivity. Healthier, happier employees are more effective employees whose performance is enhanced as production levels increase.

“From an operational standpoint, your supervisors and managers are a lot less stressed out from having to fill in scheduling gaps from unscheduled absences,” says Valla. “The dramatic reduction of unscheduled absences benefits every area of the call center operation.”

A Sensible Solution: As the call center industry continues to expand, the health of employees is a priority for companies seeking to increase efficiency. Limited-benefit health plans may just be the answer call center managers are looking for in 2009.

“I’m very proud to be in an industry that is sincerely taking action to help the working uninsured,” says Valla. “Limited-benefit health plans provide a realistic health care solution to call center industry employees and their families.”

Curt A. Wieden is vice president of product and marketing for CIGNA Voluntary at their headquarters in Phoenix. He can be reached at 800-258-9260.

[From Connection Magazine June 2009]