As an employer, you want to offer health plans that cater to the needs of all employees working at your company, but this isn’t always possible. You will have to make choices when it comes to the details of your health plan. Don’t make those decisions inside the C-suite, though. First, ask your employees what is important to them in their health plans. Here’s how to get the most complete information out of everybody:

  • Do the research first. There’s no point in asking your employees if they want something that is out of your price range anyway. It will just make them feel frustrated if you asked what they are looking for in a health plan and then are unable to provide it.
  • Explain your questions clearly. For example, don’t just ask if employees want a high-deductible plan with an HSA. Make sure that what you’re describing is crystal-clear. Give a full definition of what goes into such a plan while explaining what a health savings account is if necessary. Different employees will have different levels of awareness when it comes to health plan options.
  • Ask which hospitals and doctors they prefer. Sometimes, a local hospital is an in-network provider for one group of health plans and an out-of-network provider for another group of health plans. People often have strong feelings about which providers they prefer and especially about the doctors they can see. They may say that they want a cheaper plan until they find out that their favorite specialist is only covered by the more expensive plan.
  • Ask what they value more, not just what they value. Everyone is going to say, “I want a cheap plan that allows me to see the doctors of my choice and has almost no out-of-pocket costs,” but the reality is that a plan like that doesn’t exist. Ask employees to rank priorities among a list containing items such as doctor choices, copayments, deductibles, prescription drug plans, how quickly they can see a specialist and anything else that varies in the plans that you’re studying. The rankings will allow you to look at hard numbers and compare some of the most-wanted elements of health plans among your employee pool.
  • Don’t forget about wellness options. Do your employees desire options such as discounts on gym memberships? What about plans that reward healthy lifestyles?
  • Ask your broker or health insurance carrier for help. Your broker or the contact at your current insurer, if you have one, can help provide you with decision tools that can assess your company’s situation and even help you poll your employees. Don’t hesitate to use them as a resource.

When you take the time to ask your employees about their priorities, you’re likely to find good common ground with a plan that meets the majority of their needs at a price that you can afford.

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she interviewed and hired employees, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Her writings have appeared in Inc. Magazine, CBS MoneyWatch, US News, Readers Digest and other publications. She focuses on helping businesses nurture great employees and helping employees enjoy great careers.