Health Benefits Executives have a constant challenge—answering questions, fling paperwork, ensuring compliance, and more—but one of the things that can solve these challenges is to build an effective communication and engagement strategy to ensure employees know what they’re getting and what it means to them.
Employees often come to their benefits departments with questions, concerns, and sadly, complaints, forcing these benefits professionals to take a reactive—as opposed to proactive—strategy.
Helping Employees Understand Their Health Benefits
The Healthcare Trends Institute recently completed a webcast with our friends at ALEX by Jellyvision, who helped us to share tips, strategies, and best practices as well as the results of our consumer-facing survey on benefits education and communication preferences.
The webcast, 10 Tips to Help Employees Understand Their Health Benefits, introduced benefits professionals to the needs of employees and led the conversation for providing better benefits communication in 2017 and beyond.
Results from Our Consumer-Facing Survey
According to our consumer-facing survey, nearly 40% believed that employers aren’t doing a good job in communicating benefits offerings, and with this comes immense frustration with the enrollment and use process. There is hope, however, as consumers have found education through other means: 86% of employees were familiar with an account-based plan like an HSA, FSA, or HRA (even if only 24% were enrolled in one).
This brings us to one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed: Transparency. While there has been a major push for provider transparency in recent years, health benefits consumers are demanding the same from their employers and health plans—only 36% felt that healthcare benefit cost information was clearly presented, and only 39% felt that cost information was readily available.
Going Beyond the Website: Consumers Learn in Other Ways
With 4 different generations currently in the workplace, different generations want different methods of communication. While a majority (54.4%) are happy with reading information from a website, nearly half still prefer more traditional methods including printed factsheets (47.4%) and live presentations (38.6%).
On the other end of the spectrum, some employees would be happier with video, email, texting, decision support tools to understand health benefits options.
For more information, download our eBook, What Employees Want You to Know About Their Healthcare Benefits.
5 Common Benefits Problems Employees Face
The webcast then turned to Joe Levon of ALEX by Jellyvision, who talked about some of the issues in the current benefits communication environment, and how employers can overcome.
Dubbed “Memory Loss” by Levon, employees are looking to feel confident with their decisions before open enrollment, so they educate heavily initially but then begin to forget important aspects they need to remember. By time they need to use the plans, they’ve all but forgotten what they need to know and become frustrated.
Point of Service Perplexity
Some consumers will educate themselves on costs, providers, and more. Others will not. Imagine a consumer goes to the doctor and is prescribed Tamiflu as a cure for his flu bug. This consumer goes to the pharmacist and learns—quickly and painfully—that the prescription will set him or her back $130, quadruple what it cost him last year.
Levon calls this Point of Service Perplexity, in which consumers go into a provider with a set expectation and are shocked when they lose a service they expect to have. Accordingly, Levon notes that people respond to losing something with twice the negativity as gaining something provides them with positive feelings.
HSAs are immensely valuable. However, without the right communication, employees are unlikely to fully comprehend the value of HSAs. One such example is that of an employee who expects an HSA to work like an FSA and is surprised to find out funds aren’t immediately available. Another is finding that contribution amounts aren’t locked and that they can change contributions throughout the year.
Preventive Care Confusion
Preventive care is covered. However, once the employee goes beyond the basic physical, the employee receives a charge for any of the doctor’s efforts to cure a disease. This leads to the employee showing up to the benefits department confused about the charges and often angry about the unexpected charge.
EOB forms are tedious, confusing, and complex. What is an employee supposed to do with the paper? What does it mean? All in all, it leaves the employee confused when he or she receives it.
Tips For Addressing These Problems Throughout the Year
For the ten communication tips needed to address all five of these concerns, watch 10 Tips to Help Employees Understand Their Health Benefits here.
Learn even more by reading the ALEX by Jellyvision eBook, 4 Tips for Supporting HDHP Newbies.