Putting in the effort to makesure your employees understand their new medical benefit optionswill help you tremendously in the long run. (Photo:Shutterstock)

|

The workload associated with switching or adding a new healthplan is overwhelming; the process, stressful. But sticking with thestatus quo may not be the right thing for your company or youremployees. You could be missing out on opportunities to lower costsand improve employees' health plan experience. If you want tostay competitive, you need to keep an open mindto changing your benefits administration process too.

|

Here are three strategies that will make the process ofimplementing a new plan easier on you and your employees.

1. Communicate early and often—meeting employees where theyare

There are generally two types of employee preferences duringopen enrollment (OE): those who want the process to be quick and easy and those who want a lot ofdetailed information. To meet the varying needs, I recommendputting all the information in one spot – such as a companyintranet – where employees and their family members can easilyaccess it. This should be done before communicating to theemployees. Keep it simple. Organize information in categories thatmake sense to the employees: Medical & Dental, Life &Disability Insurance, etc. I also recommend including a summarywith bullet points linked to content that highlights the keychanges.

|

Related: 10 tips to improve employee benefits communicationand enrollment

|

One thing I found that can really help the process go smoothlyis to keep the same OE timeframe every year (e.g. third week inOctober), if possible. The consistency can establish a routine foryour employees, reminding them to start thinking about theirbenefits around the same time each year.

|

Establish a communication schedule:

|

Communicate the key changes to employees about a month before OEbegins, so they can start doing their own research and connect withyou, if they have questions.

|

Send out a reminder the day before OE begins.

|

On the first day, notify employees that OE has started.

|

In my experience, most people wait until the last day to enroll,so I recommend waiting until the last week of OE to send anotheremail, reminding them to enroll.

|

Meet employees where they are—use the tools your employees areaccustomed to using for work communications. Email may not be thebest channel; try sending an instant message. Going old schooldoesn't hurt either; sometimes a flyer in the break room may be thebest channel—keep it light and add a little fun.

2. Educate employees on critical health insuranceterminology

Putting in the effort to make sure your employees understandtheir new medical benefit options will help you tremendously in thelong run. It will help reduce the number of employees coming intoyour office asking basic insurance questions, such as "what's thedifference between a copay and coinsurance?"

|

Keep the jargon to a minimum in your explanations. It's easy forus, as benefits administrators, to get caught up in how much weknow. We must be sensitive to how little of that is understood bythe average employee who isn't engaging with their health planevery day. Ninety-six percent of Americans cannot correctly definethe four most common health insurance terms: deductible,coinsurance, copay and out-of-pocket maximum. And that educationgap has an impact: only 40 percent of Americans say theyare "very confident" they can choose the right health insuranceplan. I found it's helpful to explain the following terms toemployees:

  • Deductible
  • Copay
  • Premium
  • Co-insurance
  • Out of pocket costs
  • Out of pocket max/limit
  • High deductible health plan (HDHP)*
  • Health maintenance organization (HMO)*
  • Preferred provider organization (PPO)*
  • Flexible savings account (FSA)
  • Health savings account (HSA)
  • Health re-imbursement arrangement
  • Network (in-network vs. out-of-network)

*If you offer these plans

|

But you shouldn't do this alone. Round up a small group ofemployees to help create these definitions, so you know it is intheir language. House the definitions on the intranet OE page, sothey can be accessed easily. Post a quiz in a Slack channel or at alarge group meeting, and give the winner(s) a small prize likecompany swag, a $5 gift card or bragging rights.

3. Personalize the OE experience for employees

Every employee is different, which makes medical benefitsadministration that much more challenging. Your company's OEexperience needs to be personalized for your employee population,so they can see the benefit to them and be more comfortable withany changes to their benefits.

|

When you offer multiple health insurance plan options, employeeswant to know which plan is best for them. If you are switchingplans, they want to know why the new plan is better. While we can'tanswer that question for each individual person, we can offerexample personas that employees can identify with. Create adocument with different examples representative of your employeepopulation. For example, these could include: a 34-year-old femalewho is pregnant, a 50-year-old father with diabetes and two kidsheading to college, someone early in their career without a familyto support. Having relatable examples can make the process moretangible. In your scenarios, be sure to check the jargon at thedoor.

|

In addition, consider the makeup of your employee population.Schedule benefit meetings at various times to meet the needs ofshift workers. If you have a number of employees working remotely,host a webinar they can call into; you can also record this webinarfor employees to use as a refresher or to help them communicatewith spouses or dependents, as needed.

Give your employees peace of mind

By providing information, educating employees and personalizingtheir experience, employees will be empowered to make betterchoices for themselves and their families. Making changes andadditions to your benefits, especially your medical benefits, doesnot have to be stressful, if you prepare and manage it well. Youmay get the opportunity to put a richer and/or more affordablebenefit in front of your employees. If they have a goodunderstanding of the plan and the new benefits that it brings them,they might be grateful you made the change.

|

Jenna Obrycki Upgren, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, isthe total rewards manager at Minneapolis-based Bind On-Demand HealthInsurance.


Read more: 

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.