Date: Jan 07, 2019
Magazine:
January/February 2019

Despite the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act mandate, employers continue to pay a significant portion of the cost for employee health benefits. Now more than ever, employers need to educate their employees on the true value of those benefits, not just at open enrollment time, but throughout the year. Here are some reasons why communicating more about your health plan to employees is important and tips on how to share the information successfully.

Why Communicate

According to a February 2018 study conducted by America’s Health Insurance Plans, researchers found that the majority of employers surveyed believed that providing employer-sponsored health coverage was important for recruiting efforts, but even more important for employee retention. In another study, conducted by the Harris Poll of the American Institute of CPA’s, employees believed that having a good health plan was a stress reliever as they knew they could see a doctor without having to pay the entire cost. That peace of mind was enough for an employee to stay at a job longer so they wouldn’t lose their health benefits.

Another key finding was that most employees underestimate the full cost of what employers are paying. Yet, when employees were educated about the cost of their health plan, they thought more favorably of the company. In addition, with consistent communication from the employer, employees tend to be more responsible in how they spend their company’s healthcare dollars, which can help to reduce overall costs and improve employee wellness.

Do your employees know the true cost of their health plan? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the premium to cover one employee and their family is approaching $20,000 a year (specifically $18,764 in 2017) and employees typically pay a third or less of the cost.

 

What to Communicate

While it’s a good start to share details of how much the health plan costs and the percentage the company is paying for it, it can also help to provide details on historical trends so employees understand the reasons behind cost increases and what the projections are for future costs. If you can, show employees what the cost of health benefits would be if they had to pay through local and national insurance markets.

How about also sharing ways employees can save on their out-of-pocket health costs? Some cost-saving tips include:

•   Before scheduling a medical procedure, get pre-approval through the provider. Most doctor’s offices will contact the insurance company in advance. Confirm in advance any copays or deductibles required.

•   Seek care only from in-network providers whenever possible.

•   Limit going to the emergency room except for a life-threatening situation. For other medical needs, use a 24/7 telehealth program if available, visit an urgent care center during after hours, or a doctor during office hours.

•   If a care management program is offered, encourage employees to participate if they have a chronic condition. Participants are often eligible to receive coaching from a nurse, educational information, medication discounts and more.

•   Ask for Tier 1 prescriptions or generics whenever possible.

 

How to Communicate

Lastly, how you communicate to your staff is equally as important as what you communicate. Here are some suggestions on how to enhance your employee benefit communications:

•   Use all your communication channels to educate employees such as company newsletters, bulletin boards, intranet, social media, emails, payroll stuffers and face-to-face meetings.

•   Make your communications engaging, colorful and interactive. Consider providing infographics and role-playing scenarios during healthcare plan enrollment presentations to enhance employee understanding.

•   Consider hosting a benefits fair, with participation from your benefits plan administrator, to provide employees an opportunity to meet with them and have their questions answered directly.

•   Provide tools like a benefits calculator for employees to see how much is paid out in total compensation and benefits for the year. One is available at Calcxml.com/calculators/total-compensation. Also ask your benefit plan administrator what member materials are available to share.

In addition to these tips, remember that if you have the WGAT plan, your Western Growers Insurance Services account manager can assist you as needed. If you don’t have the WGAT plan but want more information or are interested in purchasing the plan, contact a WGAT sales representative at (800) 333-4WGA.

 

WG Staff Contact

David Zanze
Executive Vice President, WGAT; President, Pinnacle Claims Management, Inc.

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