With major health care reform changes planned for 2014, many employees are unaware of how this new marketplace will affect them, and it's important that employers get in front of the necessary communication now, says Jackie Cuthbert, principal at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm in New York City. From the media to their own friends and family, employees are receiving so many different messages regarding health care reform that it is causing much confusion. This is the time for an employer to present its value proposition with employees and help them understand what changes to expect that are specific to them.

"Whether health care reform has an impact on your or not, employees will hear about the exchanges, and we think that they'll be coming back to the employer with a lot of questions, especially with what it means for your plan," Cuthbert says. "They think they can ask you for information to help their friends and family understand what's going on. It's important for you to best give that basic information on how health care reform affects employees and the appropriate expectations right now."

To help employees understand what's coming, Cuthbert recommends making a list of terminology that employees are seeing, such as exchanges, individual mandate, affordable coverage, essential health benefits and premium subsidies. With all of the outlets of information, employees could be getting mixed messages.

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