Four Takeaways from our Conversation with Andy Slavitt on Employers’ COVID-19 Strategies

Every year, Castlight brings together some of the largest employers from across the country, and across industries, for our collaborative Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meeting. The goal is to stimulate conversations on how to best empower employees to make informed healthcare decisions and devise innovative approaches to employer-sponsored health care.

This year, we took the event virtual, and we were honored to hear from Andy Slavitt, previous Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and current Board Chair of the United States of Care, Senior Advisor to the Bipartisan Policy Center, and General Partner at Town Hall Ventures.

In his remarks, Slavitt highlighted several key areas for employers to consider as they adapt to keep employees safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Employers must clearly communicate expectations and protocols to the workforce. Nearly everyone is nervous about their safety when returning to the workplace in the midst of the pandemic. To help ease some of that anxiety, employers should clearly communicate that employee health is their top priority. They should also make it clear that the purpose of putting new protocols and policies in place is to protect the wellbeing of the entire workforce, employees’ families and associates, and the community at large.

Employers can leverage current momentum to improve care across the board. The healthcare system’s ability to quickly switch to virtual care tools and telemedicine demonstrates how adaptable the healthcare system can be in responding to needs. Similarly, Americans’ growing comfort level in using these systems demonstrates that consumers are able to adapt to new means of care delivery, unlocking improved access to care.

Employers will set standards across the economy. Employers will need to take the lead in implementing protocols, increasing testing, adapting to new standards, and making scientific findings operational on a large scale. Ensuring the safety of your workforce will not be without costs, but it will be well worthwhile to meet this new obligation.

Returning to the job site will require a multifaceted strategy. Regular testing is an imperative but testing alone is not sufficient. Employers should plan to implement a portfolio of tactics as they bring employees back to stores, offices, and job sites, including physical workplace changes, symptom attestation requirements, and contact tracing methods.

Slavitt commented that we are in the midst of an incredible transformation in health care, and employers can take advantage of this momentum to push for positive changes that improve care delivery to their employees while decreasing wasted spending. By contacting elected officials, participating in business roundtables, and sharing findings from their own employee populations, he stressed that employers can help amplify employees’ voices to policymakers and other key decision-makers.

Finally, Slavitt touched on the need for all Americans to show empathy toward others during these trying times, embrace the innovations that are occurring out of necessity, and increase our focus on preventive healthcare.

“It’s a particularly cruel crisis, in that the people that we all count on to get us through these things aren’t there,” Slavitt said. “My advice is this: Dig into your deepest well of empathy you can find—and not just for people who are sick and dying, but for someone whose sister lost their job, or their friend who opened a restaurant and had to close it. That’s just as worthy of our empathy as someone who lost someone in New York. We have a big country, we’ve got diverse experiences, and COVID is hitting us all at different times, and we may all be reacting to it in ways that appear to be brittle or angry, but I think that all comes from a place that nobody’s thrilled with.”