How to keep the health care conversation going
Help your employees think about their future plans
Open enrollment season has ended, but that doesn’t mean the conversation should be closed. Continuing to educate and communicate with employees throughout the year can help control the overwhelming feeling of making benefit selections in the future.
Offering employees ongoing, digestible information encourages them to put more thought into their selections planning for the future. By implementing the following tips, employers and benefit partners can help employees think about their coverage needs throughout the year so they’re making informed coverage decisions.
Keep the conversation going year-round
The first place to start is to continue the conversation beyond the open enrollment period. Many employees only think about their health care coverage and benefit options when open enrollment season rolls around. It is important to help employees consider all of their options and discover the best coverage for them by communicating with them year-round. By offering training sessions and providing coverage information throughout the year rather than all at once, employees can be more thoughtful in their utilization and selections.
Take generation differences into consideration
Demographics and life stage should be considered as employees may obtain and consume their information in different ways. According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, the majority of the current workforce is made up of three generations — millennials, Generation X and baby boomers. When educating this wide demographic of employees on their benefits, considering the ways they digest information is key.
Face-to-face meetings may be a preference for some, while others may favor digital communication. When creating communication materials and messaging, be sure to consider all audiences to maximize engagement. Customizing benefits communication content and providing real-life scenarios has all proven helpful in educating employees.
Get out in front of people
When open enrollment begins, employees usually make a yearlong decision quickly and without a lot of research. Help them make more informed decisions by being visible and talking through their options with them. It is key to communicate the unique benefits of the complete wellness package.
Ensure employees understand benefits available to them by continuing to be visible throughout the year and having frequent conversations. Make it easy for employees to obtain information by creating flyers or pamphlets to go up around the office along with email communication. Bring in a third party throughout the year to gauge where employees are with their health and wellness journey. Finally, make sure HR and benefit experts are easily accessible all year to answer questions and offer guidance, if needed.
Maximize health savings accounts
Health savings accounts (HSAs) continue to grow in popularity and yet, many are still unclear on how the accounts work. According to the 2016 Midyear Devenir HSA Research Report, the number of HSA accounts has risen 25 percent in the last year to 18.2 million nationwide. It is important for employees to understand the potential triple tax advantages* that an HSA offers. HSAs offer tax benefits at deposit, during the account’s life and upon withdrawal for qualified medical expenses (withdrawals for non-qualified medical expenses are subject to income taxes and a possible additional 20 percent penalty, if you’re under age 65).
Employees should also understand that money invested into an HSA can be rolled over from year-to-year—there is no “use it or lose it” clause such as with flexible spending accounts (FSAs). HSAs also can be used like traditional retirement accounts, with some working as simple savings accounts and others allowing employees to invest money in mutual funds, similar to a 401(k) or traditional IRA. Like other retirement accounts, some employers match contributions to an HSA. If this is the case, it is to the account holder’s benefit to contribute at least the minimum to meet the employer match.
As employees begin to shift their thoughts away from open enrollment, remember to continually offer support to them throughout the year. For the best results: communicate regularly and often; make information readily available; offer up experts to talk with employees, and help shepherd employees to the right plan or account when needed. At the end of the day, it is all about open communication and providing the tools an employee needs to make the most informed choices.
Begonya Klumb is the CEO of UMB Healthcare Services, manages all aspects of the business with more than $1.5 billion in assets and deposits, more than 826,000 health saving accounts, more than 5.1 million multi-purpose benefit cards and other innovative healthcare financial products.