Does it matter if your home healthcare aides use their wage parity benefits?
After all, if your agency offers benefits in compliance with wage parity law, you did your part. It’s up to the aides to decide whether or not to use them. As the cliché goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
Which is true, but—
a thirsty horse won’t perform.
And neither will your HHAs if they don’t understand (or worse, resent) their benefits.
A successful wage parity program can offer multiple benefits over cash wages, including significant ROI in employee loyalty and satisfaction. When employees maximize their benefits, you maximize your ROI.
To find out, we turned to one of our top clients, Royal Care NYC. More than 90% of Royal Care’s employees use their benefits cards down to the last penny.
Sarah Knoll, Royal Care’s Payroll/Billing Supervisor, shared four Royal Care initiatives and policies that have worked for the Royal Care team of HHAs. Together they answer the question:
How can you empower your employees to fully appreciate and use their wage parity benefits?
1. Education and communication
Offering top benefits is just the beginning. Without education, those benefits can remain unused.
Sarah identifies two areas to address:
- Explain how to use the benefits cards. “Employees can have months’ worth of benefits piled up on their card because they don’t know how to use it,” she says.
- Explain the benefits of benefits vs. cash wages. “The aides don’t realize that if they got wage parity in cash wages, they could lose their Medicaid eligibility. We have to explain that benefits are pre-tax and won’t affect their reported income.”
During open enrollment, when they’re sending other plan info to employees, Royal Care also sends a brochure clearly explaining:
- WHAT wage parity benefits they’re offering
- HOW to use them
- WHICH benefits are tax-free
- WHY benefits are better than cash wages
“We give them all the details and get the aides excited about their benefits. We show them how the benefits are better for them.”
Royal Care also goes over the monthly reports we send from Melody Benefits to spot employees who are underusing their cards. Then, they reach out personally to those aides to solve the problems that are holding them back.
2. Excellent Customer Service
Even with the best education, questions come up when employees use their cards “out in the wild”:
-How do I get my PIN?
-Do my benefits rollover to next month?
-How do I check my account balance?
-What if my card is lost or stolen?
Without answers, HHAs may stop using their cards. Accessible, friendly customer service solves this issue.
“We use our own customer service and the customer service that Melody Benefits provides. Employees know they can stop by our customer service desk anytime. When there’s a question we can’t answer, we direct the employees to the Melody Benefits helpline,” Sarah explains.
“Our aides know where to go when they have questions,” she adds.
Agencies who educate their employees can see 99% usage rates on benefits cards.
What happens when one size benefits doesn’t fit all?
Sarah emphasizes the importance of working with your employees to find out how they use their benefits.
To illustrate the point, she recalls when some employees had trouble using their health benefits. They were trying to buy approved items, but having their benefits cards mysteriously declined.
She brought the problem to our attention at Melody Benefits. After investigating, we discovered that the issue was occurring in neighborhood “mom and pop” shops that didn’t code their items in a way that the benefits cards recognized.
We worked with the local stores to remediate the problem, and soon the employees could use their benefits cards in their usual pharmacies.
And that’s just one example. It’s impossible to predict exactly how benefits usage will play out until it happens. The key is being responsive and flexible when the inevitable bumps occur.
“Employees don’t like surprises,” states Sarah.
“Josh Klein, Royal Care’s CEO, believes in being 100% straight with employees, always. Nothing is hidden. There’s no fooling around.”
Starting with the open enrollment brochure and weekly on employee pay stubs, Royal Care’s transparency gives employees confidence in the wage parity program.
The 20-21 NYS Budget mandated transparent reporting of NY wage parity benefits on employees’ pay stubs, but Royal Care did it since 2015.
Sarah explains that they “designed custom pay stubs long before it was required. The pay stubs break down the employees’ wages by the base wage and the different benefits. They’re even color-coded!”
Royal Care’s aides love that they know exactly what they get each month.
The bottom line?
Royal Care’s results aren’t a mystery. They’re a result of company policies that any home healthcare agency can implement.