What should HR say about surgical second opinions?

9 Sep

Human resources management professionals need to take mandatory surgical second opinions into account.

The debate around mandatory second surgical opinions is far from a new one. While information about the use of second opinions is important in the medical field, it's also a discussion that many professionals involved in human resources solutions must have with employees when they're making the decision to go through with a surgical procedure.

How did the conversation begin?
Original legislation dates back to the mid 1970s, a RAND Corporation report explained, and it sought to reduce healthcare costs. In effect, the bill asked employees to seek out a second opinion if they were planning to undergo any kind of surgery. The RAND report looked at both Medicaid and non-Medicaid MSSOP, especially in Massachusetts. Those with Medicaid coverage were the least impacted by secondary surgical opinions, but the indirect influence on surgery rates showed a decline in procedures performed.

What are the issues today?
According to the Society of Human Resource Management, companies have explored various avenues when trying to reduce costs for employees and the organization as a result. Some have even gone to the lengths of making a secondary surgical opinion required. Bill Carew, managing principal with Hartford, Connecticut-based Digital Benefit Advisors, told SHRM that the current healthcare environment errs on the side of strongly suggesting second opinions instead of outright mandates. Still, the focus is to provide employees with the most accurate information that they can use to make informed decisions about their personal well-being. 

Gary Young, director of the Northeastern University Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research in Boston, Massachusetts, went on to explain that research involving MSSOP doesn't demonstrate a clear path forward exactly. The underlying trend is that second opinions often reinforce the original finding, suggesting a second opinion may not make that much of a difference. SHRM also raised the question of what happens when another voice in the conversation recommends a more expensive procedure. It's not always guaranteed that doctors' advice will result in lower costs for the employee.

What should HR keep in mind?
Ultimately, the decision human resources professionals make regarding surgical second opinions must fit the company's needs and preferences, as well as those of the employees. Members of the workforce have a choice in deciding which healthcare providers to visit, but every plan will likely include a specified list of preferred medical professionals. As HR workers guide employees to make educated choices, it's also important to maintain compliance with the most recent changes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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