The more your employeesunderstand about cost-effective health care, the more likely theyare to make optimal choices for themselves and your business.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Although your company's benefits plan most directly impacts youremployees, many workers are surprisingly uninformed about the details oftheir own plans. For small businesses, this lack of education canbe the difference between big savings and big (and unnecessary)spending. If your advisor doesn't prioritize employee education,however, your workers may continue to be kept in the dark abouttheir own benefits—and the consequences could cost your businessthousands of dollars.

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When choosing an advisor for your benefits plan, you shouldalways work with one who focuses on educating your employees abouttheir own plan.

Rejecting the norm

Many standards that would be considered outrageous in otherindustries are perfectly acceptable in the health care industry.For example, not only are annual increases of up to 5 percentconsidered “good” when applied to benefits, but employers alsoplace their employees in charge of much of that spending. To top itoff, those same employees are rarely properly informed about thebest way to spend that money.

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Imagine how this practice would apply to having your employeepurchase a new work vehicle. They understand the basic idea of whatthey should look for, but don't know a lot about cars. So, nothaving the tools or education they need to make the best choice,they spend a lot of money on a vehicle that looks sleek andpolished, but needs repairs that they didn't even know to look for.In fact, if they'd been a bit more educated, they could have paid alot less for similar car in better condition at a smallerdealership outside of town.

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The idea of sending your employee out on such an expensiveerrand with such little information sounds absurd, but employersmake this exact mistake when they have their employees shop aroundfor health care without knowing what they should be looking for.The more your employees understand about cost-effective healthcare, the more likely they are to make optimal choices forthemselves and your business.

Empowerment through education

Many employees want to know more about how to make their plan domore for them, but don't know where to start. One of my favoriteanecdotes from my time as a broker was when an employee asked me,“Can I insure my husband and my boyfriend?” I laughed and told herthat she could insure one of them, but not both. This story hasalways stuck out to me as both a humorous moment in my career and areminder of why employee education is so important.

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Like the woman in my story, your employees need to understandthe capabilities and limits of their benefits plan to be able totruly make it work for them. Educating your employees about theirbenefits plan empowers them to:

  • Make informed choices about the health care they receive
  • Find their perfect balance of cost and care quality
  • Speak up or ask questions if they have concerns about theirbenefits plan

Empowered employees are satisfied employees, and enabling yourworkers to learn more about their plan can lead them to be evenhappier at the workplace.

Working together for a better future

Turning your benefits plan into a strategic opportunity for yourbusiness can only happen if you and your employees work together asa team. If your employees aren't buying into the tools andstrategies your advisor  is trying to implement, you'reunlikely to achieve the best results your plan has to offer.

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Of course, your employees can't be expected to blindly followyour lead when it comes to their own health care. By teaming upwith your advisor , you help your employees learn howtheir decisions can positively impact:

  • Their savings
  • Their quality of care
  • The business

Like the success of your business itself, the success of yourbenefits plan relies on the ability of you and your employees towork together. Once your workers understand the power of their ownchoices, they can begin to make well-informed choices and engagewith their plan to create a positive impact for allstakeholders.

Your plan's most powerful tool

Your advisor can provide you with all the tools andwisdom at their disposal, but if your employees don't know how touse them, your benefits plan may still fail to serve your businessat its full potential. By rejecting the norm in employeeinvolvement, you can help create educated, empowered employees thatcan team up with you and your advisor to achieve the bestpossible result.


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Jim Blachek is co-founderof The Benefits Group.

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