Suzanne Lucas

Do Your Employees Understand Their Health Insurance?

Everyone knows that they need to take care of their health, but when it comes to truly understanding health insurance, how good are your employees? According to a recent study, not very. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that:

  • Approximately half of employees don’t understand employee benefit materials
  • Only 19 percent of employers report that their employees have a “high level” of understanding of their benefits
  • Eighty percent of employers claim their employees don’t even read the benefits collateral

If your employees are typical in this way, it’s time to create a strategy for health care promotion in the workplace. Here are five things you can do that will help.

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Bring In a Health Insurance Broker

While you should be fluent with your offerings, a health insurance broker has deep knowledge of the ins and outs of health insurance and how it works. They can go over how deductibles work and why the copay for a generic drug is less than the copay for a brand name drug. Depending on your plan’s options, they can explain the differences between PPOs, HMOs and high-deductible setups. It’s natural to have questions about these things. After all, they’re complex even for experts.

Make the Benefits Information Easy to Access

If understanding health insurance means reading through a 50-page booklet, your employees just aren’t going to do it. Make sure your plan information is available — and easily searchable — on your company’s internal site. An employee should find what they need by doing a keyword search. At the same time, don’t underestimate the power of visual tools like charts and graphics for conveying complex information.

Offer Help

If you just have an annual checkup and a single case of strep throat every winter, handling your health insurance is pretty straightforward. But a chronic condition or a hospitalization can be confusing and time-consuming for an employee to sort out.

Offering help, even if it’s just being available to sit with an employee while they call the insurance company, can mean a lot. Better yet, establish contacts your employees can turn to whenever particularly thorny questions arise.

Host Lunch-and-Learns About Medical Care

These presentations don’t have to be lectures about complex diseases, but consider bringing in a nurse to talk about when to call your own doctor, when to go to urgent care, when to go to emergency room and when to call 911. Talk about the importance of scheduling pediatric checkups, receiving immunizations and taking medicine as prescribed.

Don’t forget that not all of these things are obvious to all people. If they understand that there’s a huge cost differential between a scheduled doctor’s appointment and an emergency room visit, your employees will be less likely to head to the ER the next time their child comes down with a sore throat.

Help Employees Find Time

While the law doesn’t require you to give time off for annual checkups or other preventative screenings, it’s wise to ensure that your employees get the time off they need to stay on top of their health.

One truth about health insurance is that nonemergencies are cheaper than emergencies. Employees who can’t take time off for an annual checkup probably won’t see a doctor until it’s dire, and that costs more for everyone. Make sure your company allows employees to use sick time or PTO specifically for scheduled doctors’ appointments. If at all possible, offer flexible scheduling so that employees can attend to appointments without dipping into their time off. For example, an employee may come in early and leave early so they can both complete their work and see a doctor.

These considerations can make a huge difference in your employees’ ability to understand and take the most advantage of their health insurance. Above all, solicit questions and do your best to follow up with comprehensive answers.

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