Pressured by costs, companies join forces to cut health expenses

Jornal Valor Econômico, Empresas/SP | 02/01/2018
Costs with health insurance plans have become a nightmare for companies. In most of them, it represents the second largest expense with personnel, just losing to payroll. In some cases, even more. The disconnection between increased prices in general and the so-called medical inflation has started in the middle of last decade. However, it has become more noticeable from inflation control. Today, readjustments in health care insurance plans mean two to three times the IPCA (Extended National Consumer Price) index, according to a research conducted last year by Associação Brasileira de Recursos Humanos (ABRH) and Aliança para a Saúde Populacional (Asap). In informal conversations, entrepreneurs realized that such cost pressure was common to everyone. Six months ago, ABRH and Asap - this last is a representative of consultancies with expertise in health management - created a forum, which brings together executives to exchange experiences on a monthly basis. The most successful ones reveal companies that included their employees’ health in management programs. Two thirds of the expenses from companies located in Brazil are health-related, according to data of ABRH and Asap.
 
Elaborated by the union of the two entities, the research concluded in the second half of 2017 involved 668 companies that have, together, 1.3 million employees and 3 million beneficiaries, including dependent ones. A universe equivalent to almost 10% of the total covered by health insurance plans in the country. Most part of the research respondents said that price readjustments of these plans equals to, at least, two to three times the inflation and some of them ensured to have already afforded increases six or seven times higher than IPCA. “It is like the alligator jaws, getting wider and wider”, says Luiz Edmundo Rosa, personnel development director of ABRH Brazil. According to him, the forum has brought together, for now, 20 big groups, among which we have Itaú, Petrobras, Johnson & Johnson, Pirelli, Sherwin Williams and Natura. The union to cut costs and include health in the entrepreneurial strategy resulted in the need to form human resource teams. In partnership with a university whose name is under secrecy, a training course on corporative health management will be launched in May. “Before, we used to talk about problems to ourselves. But complaining about increased prices and simply delegating to operating companies the employees care will not work. You have to create a health intelligence inside the company”, says the president of Asap, Ana Elisa Siqueira. To Rosa, of ABRH, the entrepreneurs are at serious risks to not being able to restrain this cost increase when delegating to a single person the responsibility to manage the second largest expense of the company. But many of them have already noticed this.
 
Since October 2016, the pharmaceutical company Biolab has created an in-house area elaborated by human resource and financial areas. In partnership with a consultancy, several measures were taken. One of them consists of conducting an analysis of all requests for medical procedures and exams of its 2.5 thousand employees. At 6 p.m., every day, the HR superintendent, Luciana Lourenço, receives a list of requests including the main specialties, such as orthopedics and cardiology.
 
In the screening, physicians who work for the company can be called to give a second opinion. However, according to Luciana, the success of this type of action depends on worker trusting the company. Biolab has a partnership with Serviço Social da Indústria (Sesi) to offer exams in mobile clinics, which park in the patio of manufacturing plants of the group. And it follows all hospitalizations. The results are satisfying. Luciana followed the recovery of an employee’s child from Espírito Santo. The kid was orphaned after an accident where the parents died and he was seriously injured. “In the old model, I could not interfere; I would only know what happened when receiving the report of how long he remained in ICU”, she says.
 
Major companies have changed pre-paid plans to post-paid plans, where you only pay when you use it. “The risk to make this change without creating in parallel a management program is like parking the car in a dark street with no insurance”, says Luciana. With the two actions, in one year Biolab has reduced costs of health insurance plans in 30%. “Today we pay, per beneficiary, the equivalent to the amount of three years ago”, says the financial director, Alexandre Inglesias. “If the companies do not assume this management they will have to afford an unpayable expense”.
 
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