Lots of workers are worried about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will affect their access to health coverage. That anxiety takes a toll on their work quality. But there are ways to combat this PPACA-related syndrome that can relieve employee stress and result in higher performing workers.
This was among the nuggets extracted from MetLife’s 2013 employee benefits trends study. The study, which queried nearly 3,000 corporate decision-makers and rank-and-file employees, posed the question: Could health care reform make your employees less productive?
By taking the temperature of employees regarding their concerns about health care reform, the researchers found that nearly two-thirds of workers reported being worried about three reform-related matters:
- Having access to affordable health insurance (60 percent);
- having enough money to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses (61 percent);
- having their employer discontinue company-sponsored health coverage (50 percent).
Overall, the study found, 79 percent of employees interviewed were worried about at least one of the above.
The worriers don’t perform as well at work. When asked whether their work quality had fallen recently, 54 percent of the worriers said it had, while only 36 percent of non-worriers said their quality was down.
What to do?
MetLife has some answers for that one, and it all has to do with employee benefits.
“Employees who are very satisfied with their benefits are nearly five times more likely to report that, because of their benefits, they worry less about unexpected health and financial issues,” the study said.
From the data, MetLife offered three strategies for decreasing worker stress around health care reform.
Offer supplemental health options: “Voluntary supplemental health benefits – such as accident, critical illness, dental, disability and vision coverages – are a cost-effective way to boost health care support for employees and a good strategy to help keep stress down,” MetLife said. These types of options relieve employees of the stress of wondering how they’ll pay for unexpectedly high bills, and the survey suggests that employees will pay for these kinds of protections. MetLife reports: “Of those employees who are very concerned their employer will reduce their benefits, about six in 10 (59 percent) are willing to pay more of their benefits costs rather than lose them.”
Cultivate wellness to promote productivity: Wellness programs are all the rage, and companies are getting better at engaging employees in their programs. Healthy workers are happier workers, and many employees appreciate it when their employer offers them healthy living practices. Nearly 60 percent of decision-makers interviewed agreed that “offering wellness programs to motivate healthy employee behaviors is a very important benefits strategy.” Of those, 67 percent said their company offers a wellness program. The MetLife study said 57 percent of employees reported that they participate in their company wellness program.
Keep employees in the information loop: The big fear for many employees is that their employer will deep-six the company health plan. Yet 77 percent of employers interviewed by MetLife said they intend to continue to offer health coverage. So let your workers know what’s going on! Share basic health care reform information and updates with your employees, with special attention to how it may impact them. If you are planning to continue coverage, reassure them of that. And don’t let them read about any changes to your health coverage in the paper or online — let them be the first to know. Explain, don’t just dump news on them.