Employee benefits program launching for RIMA, RITA members

FOR YEARS Melissa Travis says rising costs has made it difficult for employers she’s worked with across Rhode Island to provide their employees with worthwhile health and wellness benefits.

PROVIDENCE – For years Melissa Travis says rising costs have made it difficult for employers she’s worked with across Rhode Island to provide their employees with the best health and wellness benefits.

But Travis, CEO and president of the Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants and the RI Business Forum, is confident employers will find relief through a new ICON Benefits platform. The platform was formed as its own entity through RISCPA titled ICONIA Solutions LLC and is meant to provide employers with supplementary benefit options they can offer employees along with their existing insurance.

The program will be launched in November for members of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and the Rhode Island Trucking Association and will be opened to additional industries in 2024. 

“For over a decade, I have been committed to redefining the employee-wellness landscape in Rhode Island – and this is a win for employers across Rhode Island,” Travis told Providence Business News.

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The program includes what she called a “first of its kind” pharmacy benefits offering, as well as a mental health and substance use program. Travis noted this offering was made possible through unique contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers that allow for savings on many drugs employees have struggled to get before. For example, employees may have had to go through step therapy in which insurers require them to take alternative medications before they can access the drug they were prescribed. But through the platform employees can access acute medications at no cost and more than 200 commonly prescribed drugs – including those to treat mental health – at $1 for a 90-day supply.

A qualified prescription consultation is also available and members can choose from several delivery options, including: direct to home, doctor or health care facility or pick-up at a local pharmacy.

The plan also includes life, wellness and career coaches to address employee mental health and substance use challenges. Travis noted these programs are especially crucial as Rhode Island continues to face behavioral and substance use crises.

Karl Wadensten, CEO and president of manufacturer VIBCO Inc. in Richmond, has offered a similar version of the platform to his employees for several years. One of the platform’s key benefits is its cost savings, as VIBCO was able to keep its annual Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island increases to just single digits while other company’s saw double-digit increases, Wadensten said.

“It allows for significant decreases in prescription drug prices … as a business owner now I don’t have as high experience ratios because of this overlay,” Wadensten said. “It’s important to offer people access to the best health care possible … not only for their own well-being, but also so people can get back to work more efficiently.”

There is also a financial services feature and savings offered on the following: primary care, urgent care, dental, vision, hearing, durable medical equipment, diabetic supplies, lab tests, MRI scans and CT scans. An essential health program offers members direct access to primary and urgent care with telemedicine. Members will also be able to use ICON’s own 1-800 number and the program will work with brokers and insurance carriers to help manage both short and long-term health care strategies.

The platform will continue to expand its program offering as it grows and anyone purchasing individual insurance coverage can also access the program through an Automated Clearing House payment feature, Travis said. Also, the benefits offered are designed to supplement the state’s health insurance carrier options.

Travis added the platform will help employers attract and retain employees, as they can offer more of what employees are seeking from health insurance plans.

“The ability for employers to have access to a solution that promotes the physical health and mental well-being of employees and their families will not only help them attract top talent, it is the ultimate employee retention program,” Travis said. 

The program was intentionally crafted to work with existing brokers who will be trained on the program or directly with the human resources team, Travis said. In 2024, the program will be expanded to sole proprietors and independent contractors.

“Rhode Island Manufacturers Association believes that employee wellness is at the heart of a successful and thriving workforce,” said RIMA Executive Director Dave Chenevert. “The opportunity to provide our members with this innovative health benefits platform is a testament to our commitment to the manufacturing community across Rhode Island. It will ensure they have access to the care they need at prices they can afford.”

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