Originally published on BenefitsPro
The adage “there are no stupid questions” is quite apt when it comes to navigating the complexities of the American health care industry, especially health insurance. Yet, many employees get incredibly stuck just trying to figure out where to start selecting health insurance that makes the most sense for them and their families, let alone understanding how to use their benefits to save themselves and their companies money.
A whopping 56% of Americans feel “completely lost” trying to understand their health insurance, with the number rising to 75% among people on a family member’s job-based health plan, according to a 2021 survey by Bend Financial. The survey also uncovered these meaningful insights:
- When asked what element of health insurance confuses them most, 52% cited figuring out what counts toward their deductible.
- Nearly half of respondents said understanding what procedures are covered or what constitutes in- or out-of-network care was the most confusing part to them.
- An overwhelming 65% of respondents incorrectly said that HSAs and FSAs are the same.
The situation is made worse when employees think they’ll appear foolish or unintelligent if they ask questions directly to HR or in employee meetings. The confusion and lack of understanding are costing employees, their families, and their employers money and lost time.
For brokers, this creates an opportunity to be an essential resource to employers and their workforces, to act as a trusted advisor and support harried HR and benefits leaders. Employers that offer health insurance benefits must make sure employees know how to select and navigate this valuable offering. Below are several strategies that brokers can share with clients in two general areas that will make a difference for the companies and their employees: communication and engagement.
Brokers and employee communication
Employee communication about health insurance is crucial if employees are going to understand their benefits and make informed decisions. Brokers play a vital role in facilitating this communication. Here are five ways brokers can help improve employee communication about health insurance.
- Destigmatize asking questions. Brokers can help employees feel more comfortable raising concerns and questions by serving as a point of contact for employees to address insurance-related queries. They can also help simplify the learning process for employees by breaking down complex concepts into easily understandable information. This can be done by providing examples and real-life scenarios to help illustrate insurance concepts, and by explaining insurance jargon in simple terms. This can help employees feel they understand their health insurance enough to ask better-informed questions and better understand their options.
- Be sure employees know who to contact at insurance providers. Brokers can ease the burden on HR leaders and support employees by providing online tools, resources, or user-friendly portals that make it easier for them to reach the right customer service people at insurance companies. With a portal, you can offer educational videos, FAQs, and other resources.
- Ensure year-round communication. Brokers often have access to updated changes to plans, rules, and regulations before HR professionals do — and certainly ahead of employees. Brokers can add value to their relationship with employers by providing regular updates for leaders to share with employees and to keep employees informed about any changes in insurance policies or coverage.
- Provide consistent documentation (text and video) about how the plan works, the benefits of preventive health, health insurance terminology, and more. Again, brokers can support clients and employees by providing communication that explains insurance jargon in simple terms, breaks down complex concepts into easily understandable information, and delivers examples and real-life scenarios to illustrate insurance concepts.
- Offer employee lunch-and-learns that you can lead or share with carrier representatives. As part of these sessions, brokers can offer one-on-one consultations to address individual employee concerns and help employees select the most suitable plans for their needs and budget. These meetings can also be designed as workshops or offered as webinars, with interactive communication to make the sessions more engaging and memorable, and ensure all employees have access.
Brokers and employee engagement
Maintaining employee engagement is a key factor in the success of any organization. It is an area that requires constant nurturing and enhancement — activities in which brokers can play a crucial role.
1. Offer year-round surveys on how processes are going, employee feelings about their benefits, and more. This strategy not only allows an organization and the broker to regularly collect valuable feedback about benefits processes, but it also makes employees feel valued and heard. Working with the right benefits administration vendor, brokers can effectively devise and execute these surveys to target relevant aspects of health insurance: employee satisfaction, work culture, job roles, management style, and more. This data can give brokers and employers essential insights to help shape and improve internal strategies, which in turn will increase employee engagement.
2. Offer pre-open enrollment surveys to gauge what topics generate the most confusion. When brokers integrate findings from pre-enrollment surveys into their communication strategies, they promote clarity and boost engagement. With the data gathered from the surveys, brokers can tailor their course of communication to address these areas of confusion. This proactive approach not only clears up misconceptions, but also builds employees’ trust and confidence in the broker’s ability to act in their best interests. By resolving ambiguities and presenting clarified information, brokers can not only simplify the enrollment process for employees, but also improve employee engagement levels, contributing positively to overall workplace satisfaction and productivity.
3. Provide a decision support tool during open enrollment. Brokers can play a crucial role in helping to mitigate the often overwhelming and confusing process of open enrollment by working with a benefits administration vendor whose platform includes decision support. Decision support tools provide employees with a clear understanding of the different coverage options available to them, break down complex terms, and explain the benefits and limitations of each plan. Decision support tools also empower employees to knowledgeably compare and contrast different plans, taking into account an individual’s specific needs and preferences. These easily accessible online tools help employees identify cost-saving opportunities by analyzing factors including premiums, deductibles, and copayments, and save them time during open enrollment by streamlining the decision-making process.
Brokers achieve multiple outcomes when they provide employers with proven, effective, and ready-to-implement recommendations and strategies to improve communication and employee engagement around health care benefits. They increase employee understanding of this valuable company offering, help them be better healthcare consumers, and support them to feel more confident in their decision-making process when choosing their benefits.
The final results from all of that are increased employee satisfaction with their plans, a sense of empowerment in managing their health care and a better employee experience.
Jasper Purvis is Vice President of Business Development for Selerix, a provider of benefits administration solutions for employers and carriers.