Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, organizations large and small have grappled with new and urgent issues. Like most employers, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, needed to move quickly to support their employees. They needed a benefit that provided both flexibility and the ability to cater to the needs of their employees.
After careful consideration and education, HCSC rolled out a Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) to encourage widespread vaccination among its 25,000 employees without a mandate—one that was fast, seamless, and thoughtful.
Employee health and safety risks challenged leaders to maximize employee vaccination rates without a mandate
To reach their goals, HCSC leaders needed to overcome challenges on multiple fronts. They wanted a program that would support their employees’ health and safety, reflect their role as a healthcare leader, allow for exemptions, and reflect legal requirements, plus be flexible and quick to implement.
“There was no script for this,” said John Hosea, VP HR Benefits and Operations for HCSC, which operates health plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. “We needed to uphold our core responsibilities to stand with our members—including our employees—in sickness and in health, which meant helping them understand as much as they could with respect to COVID-19 while keeping them as safe as possible.”
Incentives to drive engagement
HCSC decided to compensate employees who participated in a vaccine program (those who provided vaccination documentation or who provided proof of exemption). The challenge was finding a way to avoid the added burden of administering the program internally along with collecting and storing sensitive data.
HCSC wanted a partner who had the experience and expertise to implement and maintain an incentive-based program. And, as the pandemic forced them to move quickly, they knew they needed someone they could already trust—who understood their employee population and offered their people both familiar systems and support along the way.
HCSC chose HealthEquity to implement a vaccine incentive program, prioritizing seamless administration and a hassle-free employee experience
In February of 2021, HCSC asked the HealthEquity team—which manages several HCSC benefit accounts—if it was possible to duplicate the company’s existing Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) to offer a new incentive to employees who could show proof of full vaccination or a valid exemption. HealthEquity determined it could modify an existing type of LSA to suit HCSC requirements. This was possible because HCSC already had infrastructure in place—from backend payroll systems to data integration— through its Commuter benefits and Wellness LSA.
“One of the important factors for success was that our employees were already familiar and comfortable with the HealthEquity tools and resources,” said Hosea.
HCSC and HealthEquity were motivated to move quickly. The project took six weeks from concept to implementation. They collaborated weekly to model the program after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, outline the eligibility rules and exceptions, account for a wide variety of vaccine types and doses, and adjust payment amounts as needed.
How HCSC used an LSA to achieve rapid, widespread vaccination among employees
o Created nimble action teams. At the onset of the pandemic, HCSC formed small working groups with direct access to an executive taskforce to allow for quick decision-making.
o Tapped internal clinical expertise. HCSC’s Chief Medical Officer relayed known scientific information—and countered disinformation in real time—in frequent “Ask the Doctor” sessions.
o Ramped up communication efforts. The company shared information in its bi-weekly Blue News newsletter, townhalls, Intranet, and through its Employee Services group.
o Leveraged existing relationship with HealthEquity. HCSC collaborated with HealthEquity to use the existing LSA program (which reimburses employees for meeting health screening and wellness goals) as a model to launch the vaccine incentive program.
o Developed a separate account reimbursed through payroll. Drew on existing relationships, platform, and account structure to access files, securely collect sensitive information, create new logins, support employees, and build in flexibility.
o Stayed in constant communication. A core team of HCSC human resources and HealthEquity team members met daily and collaborated as needed with payroll, communications, data analytics, benefits, and legal teams.
o Engaged with employees and adjusted along the way. Through employee feedback and by monitoring the number of successful full vaccinations, HCSC adjusted the initial reimbursement amount to achieve higher results.
Within six weeks of program rollout, HCSC achieved a more than 70% employee vaccination rate
HCSC considers its vaccine incentive program a success on multiple fronts including speed to market and ease of use, as well as the overall participation rate and outcome. Of those participating in the program, the vast majority provided proof of full vaccination, with only 3% participating under the valid exemption. Coupled with other safety measures, including UV-C germicidal and High Efficiency Particulate Air filtration systems, as well as antimicrobial shared surfaces, the organization feels positive it developed the right approach to stand with and support its employees.
“In challenging times like we have experienced we were able to collaborate and create a program we can all be proud of. All of this was done without a roadmap and with limited time to go live. We involved the right people at the right time with the right motivation,” said Hosea. “That’s what made this work—people.”
Now that the vaccine objective is met, HCSC continues to work closely with HealthEquity on ways to keep their wellbeing benefits fresh and attractive to their talent.
The bottom line
“Had we not partnered on our vaccine incentive program, it would have taken us longer and we may not have achieved the results we wanted,” said Hosea. “Speed to market was key and agility was essential for our success.”
HCSC is pleased they were able to mirror their dedication to their members by doing the same for their employees—doing everything in their power to support their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn more about custom solutions
If you’re interested in customizing an incentive plan to match your organization’s goals, reach out to our team. Call us at 866.855.8908 and we’ll help you find the best strategy available.
HealthEquity does not provide legal, tax, financial or medical advice. Always consult a professional when making life-changing decisions.
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