According to a recent survey from Maestro Health, employers aren’t doing a great job of communicating healthcare benefits to their workers. In fact, 62 percent of 1,000 employed consumers surveyed said their employers don’t serve as a resource for their healthcare-related questions. One-third of respondents said they don’t understand their medical bills, and 54 percent said they don’t know what the term “self-funded healthcare” means.
Kevin Seeker, associate vice president of benefit communication strategy at Sun Life Financial U.S., says these survey results are disheartening because employers are the ones who must guide employees to help make the right benefits decisions for themselves and their dependents.
“Employers must choose the right platforms that support communication and education and be willing to evolve or adjust communications to suit varied workforce demographics,” says Seeker. “It is also important to communicate in language that employees understand. ‘Insurance speak’ can be confusing.”
For example, he says, when offered a high-deductible health plan with a health-spending account, employees often become confused as to what their actual out-of-pocket expenses will be and how to best leverage the HSA.
To help improve healthcare communications, Seeker offers the following three tips for employers.
- Maintain benefits communication year-round, not just at enrollment season. Ongoing communications can be about specific benefits, wellness programs or other health- and benefit-related items. This practice will also help new hires who need to make benefits decisions rather quickly.
- Administer employee surveys that solicit feedback on available products, plan designs and enrollment-decision support.
- Understand your workforce’s demographics and accommodate them during enrollment–some people may prefer a digital experience while others still want to speak to real people. Vary your communications to include one-on-one or group meetings, telephone support and mobile applications.
In a time when healthcare costs continue to rise, employers should be committed to helping their employees choose health plans and other benefits appropriate for their needs.
Rob Butler, CEO of Maestro Health, notes that in the U.S., Americans spend more than $10,000 per person per year on healthcare, totaling more than $3.5 trillion annually.
“Understanding what people want when it comes to healthcare and benefits and arming consumers with the tools to enhance their literacy, will help us optimize the industry and improve consumers’ individual health outcomes,” says Butler.
An investment in effective communication, Seeker adds, can help ensure employers and their employees get the most value out of their benefits offerings.
“If employees are enrolled in the right plan–for their finances and the needs of themselves and their families–they’ll be better prepared to navigate their benefit plans, seeking appropriate care when necessary, stay healthier and be more productive at work,” he says.