During your clients’ open enrollment, they probably receive a flood of questions from their employees about their health benefits. But questions and confusion about benefits don’t begin and end with open enrollment. And for most companies, confusion about benefits is a major problem.
- Only 39% of employees fully understood their company health insurance policies, according to a recent survey.
- Nearly 20% said they weren’t sure they understood the benefits they signed up for.
- Almost half weren’t sure what their annual health coverage costs were.
The same survey found that this confusion about benefits can overwhelm employees, to the point that they often give up trying to understand them.
- Nearly 20% of surveyed employees said they didn’t do any research before choosing their health benefits.
- More than 90% said they simply sign up for the same benefits year after year.
As a result, your clients’ employees may be spending too much to over-insure themselves, or conversely might be compromising their health by passing on important benefits to try to cut costs.
This confusion can be bad for their company’s bottom line as well, wasting available benefits and contributing to rising health care costs. In fact, some HR professionals estimate that as much as 40% of their company’s total health care spending is wasted because of employee confusion. That’s a lot.
With is in mind, it might be time to help your clients rethink their benefits communication game.
Benefits communication: It’s not just for open enrollment anymore
Certainly, reaching out to employees about their benefits during open enrollment is always a good idea. But remember that employees also have questions and concerns about benefits throughout the year, and particularly when they have to use them.
With that in mind, look for opportunities to help your clients educate their employees during key moments:
- At the beginning of the calendar or plan year, they can remind their employees about new benefits available to them or that their new deductibles and maximums have reset
- At the end of the calendar or plan year, they can encourage them to use their benefits before their deductibles and maximums reset
- During the summer, they can suggest that their employees take their kids to the dentist before they return to school
- When their employees move, or they move their office to a new area, they can offer employees tips on how to find a nearby in-network dentist
- When their employees experience a qualifying life event, such as getting married or having a baby, they can explain how to add a dependent to their dental plans
Helping their employees help themselves
A single 20-something employee with a pet iguana is going to have very different health care needs than a married 50-year-old with a large family. What they might have in common, though, is their understanding of health care plans and their lingo — next to none.
So rather than simply mailing out printed plan guides that most employees don’t read anyway, suggest resources that target individual employees and their unique needs to help them choose a plan that’s right for them.
- For example, Delta Dental offers answers to frequently asked questions, which includes information about dental plans, such as the difference between PPO and DHMO-type plans, explanations of networks and orthodontic benefits and many other topics.
- Delta Dental also offers helpful videos that explain Delta Dental plans, networks and more.
They should also be as transparent as possible with costs. Suggest that they explain specifically how much employees will pay when they enroll in different plans.
Benefits are a two-way street
As your clients strive to better educate their employees about benefits, make sure they don’t miss the opportunity to have their employees educate them as well. Given the chance, employees can provide your clients with valuable information about what they want — and don’t want — in their benefits. Help them give employees multiple forums to share feedback, such as:
The questions and comments they receive can help you and your clients tailor their benefits communication strategies by uncovering new issues, such questions about virtual dental care options.
Remember, benefits communication is about more than open enrollment. Building a strong communications strategy is important for the health of both your clients’ employees and companies. By creating effective, personalized and tech-friendly communications, they’ll potentially save money and time, and ensure that their employees get the benefits they want and need.