Tips for communicating health plan options to employees

Posted August 30, 2017

By Ed Zalewski, PHR, editor, J. J. Keller & Associates

If you haven’t yet started getting ready for open enrollment for your company’s health plan, you will probably be starting soon. Among other things, you’ll likely give employees information on how your plan options, costs, or premiums will change next year. Even if nothing changed, employees should still consider your plan options before choosing (or waiving) coverage. So, how can you best provide that information to employees?

Start communicating early

Communicating plan information well before open enrollment gives employees time to evaluate their options. If plan information is provided shortly before the enrollment deadline, employees may be more likely to simply make the same choice as last year rather than weigh their options compared to their current situation.

Vary your delivery methods

Providing the same information in multiple formats (email, mailing, meetings, online posts) increases the likelihood that employees will look it over, and allows them to review it more than once. Also, consider giving a notice that information will be forthcoming, such as, “Watch for information on health plan changes in your mailbox next week.”

Use smaller information bites

Although you may have a lot of information to share, expecting employees to absorb it all during a one-hour meeting is asking a lot. Offering a series of shorter sessions will give them a chance to digest information in smaller bites. Also, a series of meetings provides multiple opportunities to ask questions that they may not have thought of previously.

Short videos (no more than five minutes) can also be effective to explain specific features, and employees can view them whenever they have time – or view them more than once.

As you present information, start with the basics (do employees know how coinsurance works?) and use terms that employees will understand. Each meeting or video should build on previous sessions to introduce additional considerations.

Suggest points to consider

Whether employees are currently on your plan or joined a spouse’s plan, ask them to consider how that plan is working for them. Questions they may want to ask themselves could include:

  • Did I file any claims in the last year? Do I anticipate any claims next year?
  • Were my out-of-pocket costs within expected levels?
  • Do I engage in high-risk hobbies such as rock climbing?
  • Did I talk to my spouse about options?
  • Do I have children? Am I planning to have children?
  • Do I (or my family) have recurring conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or allergies?
  • Do I have sufficient savings to cover the plan deductible?

Remind employees that once they make a choice to join (or not join) a plan, they may be stuck with their decision for a full year. It may also help to explain that your company offers health insurance because it cares about employees, and that your goal is to ensure that everyone makes an informed decision about which plan to join.

About the author:

Ed Zalewski

Ed Zalewski is a certified Professional in Human Resources and an editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, a nationally recognized compliance resource company that offers products and services to address the range of responsibilities held by human resources and corporate professionals. Zalewski specializes in employment law topics such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, employee benefits, and discrimination and harassment. He is the author of J. J. Keller’s FLSA Essentials guidance manual and BottomLine Benefits & Compensation newsletter. For more information, visit www.jjkeller.com/hr.