Closing care gaps with your employee benefits strategy

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  • Date posted

    Oct 03, 2023

  • Estimated reading time

    5 minutes

Open enrollment season is the perfect time to impress employees with your new benefits offerings. But it'll take more than it used to.

Today, employees expect more than just the bare minimum.

Caregivers are looking for generous parental leave policies. Rural employees need telehealth services to connect them with more providers. And what about mental health resources? The list goes on and on.

Employees are looking for an employer who considers these factors and provides benefits to accommodate their unique needs.

When crafting a benefits strategy, HR and benefits experts must consider these and other social determinants of health (SDOH) to truly meet the needs of their employees. This will serve as the foundation of an equitable and effective recruitment and retention strategy.

What are social determinants of health (SDOH)?

The term “social determinants of health” describes the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes. We all experience SDOH depending on where we are born, where we live, where we work, and our age.

The US Department of Health and Human Services groups social determinants of health into five areas:

  1. Economic stability
  2. Education access and quality
  3. Healthcare access and quality
  4. Neighborhood and built environment
  5. Social and community context

It's difficult for an employer to address each of these factors. However, through thoughtful benefits planning, HR teams can help close gaps in essential care.

Closing care gaps by addressing SDOH

Social determinants of health can negatively impact employees, causing gaps in care. A care gap refers to a group of individuals who require treatment but do not receive it due to several reasons.

Care gaps can occur when a patient misses a screening, when there is unclear communication between a patient and a provider, when a patient can't find in-network care, and more. Here are a few real-world examples of care gaps in action:

  • Someone does not trust their doctor or does not understand their diagnosis, so they fail to take medication as prescribed.
  • Someone lacks transportation to important screenings like annual physicals, mammograms, colonoscopies, mental health screenings, or cardiovascular screenings.
  • Someone cannot access in-network care to address their chronic condition.

Employee health is influenced by both physical factors and by their social networks, environment, and economic circumstances. Without a comprehensive grasp of an employee’s social determinants of health, it is difficult to close these gaps in care.

That’s where employer benefits offerings come into play.

How to address SDOH with an employee benefits strategy

Employees can recognize genuine care from their employer. They can also recognize when open enrollment or benefits selection was handled as another check-the-box initiative.

Offering empathetic employee benefits is more than just the right thing to do. It has a powerful impact on employee retention, your recruitment efforts, and your bottom line.

According to a Pew Research Center study, 43% of employees cited poor benefits as a reason for their resignation.


of employees cited poor benefits as a reason for their resignation.

No one wants to work for a company that doesn't care. Taking the time and attention necessary to craft an empathetic, effective benefits strategy is a commitment to holistic employee wellbeing.

Start by identifying which of the five SDOH domains you can impact as an HR or benefits specialist. It's all about thinking deeply and getting creative with personalized benefits. For now, let’s consider:

  • Childcare
  • Health care
  • Retirement savings
  • Community and transportation

Read on as we dig into each of these domains to create a positive and lasting change in your organization.

High-quality childcare support

The average cost of childcare in the US is a heavy financial burden. According to the US Department of Labor, childcare prices range from $5,357 for school-age home-based care in small counties to $17,171 for infant center-based care in very large counties.

That represents roughly 8 – 19% of median family income per child.

If an employer can help carry this burden—they should. But if you can’t afford to open an on-site daycare facility, consider other employer-sponsored or subsidized childcare services.

This could include providing access to a platform that locates affordable childcare providers, offering backup care benefits, or providing subsidies to help employees pay for childcare.

Before making any decisions, determine if this is the right fit for your employee population. Analyze what percentage of employees are parenting infants, toddlers, preschool, and school-age children.

Access to quality healthcare

A harsh reality? 1 in 10 people in the US do not have health insurance. Most rely on their employer to provide access to timely, affordable, and high-quality care.

These resources can connect employees to potentially life-saving services like routine cancer screenings.

Employers can help increase access to quality health care through methods like health savings accounts or health reimbursement arrangements.

Telehealth offerings can also break down barriers to essential care by opening the door to more accessible health resources.

Robust retirement savings resources

Having sufficient retirement savings helps ensure a long life is also a happy one. It provides employees with the financial security and freedom they need during their later years.

This security can reduce stress and anxiety related to financial concerns, positively impacting mental health and overall wellbeing.

Employers can help employees increase their long-term financial security with generous contributions to 401(k) plans or other retirement accounts.

Before moving forward with this offering, consider the average deferral percentage for retirement plans and what percentage of employees are taking hardship withdrawals.

Community support and transportation

Where we live has a major impact on our quality of life and the care we receive. While this may seem outside an employer's control, a thoughtful benefits plan can support employees in this domain.

Remote work policies often allow for greater flexibility in work hours. This flexibility can contribute to better work-life balance, enabling employees to allocate more time to family, leisure, and self-care activities, which are vital for overall health.

Working from home also allows employees to engage more actively in their local communities, fostering a sense of belonging and social support.

But if remote work is not compatible with your business model, you still have options. Consider other methods to make an impact in this domain by subsidizing commuting costs.

Personalize benefits for greater employee wellbeing

A good leader is genuinely concerned about their employees' health and wellbeing.

To truly meet the needs of their staff, employers must go beyond traditional health benefits. When decision-makers take social determinants into account, they can make substantial improvements in their employees’ overall health.

This helps employers cut through the noise and position themselves as in-touch, empathetic leaders in today’s workplace.

Connect your employees to the benefits that matter most to them. We’re here to help. Book a demo with one of our experts today.

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