by Do you fully understand your benefits plan at work? Your employer may think you and your co-workers need no further explanation, but you might beg to differ.
How well is your employer informing you about it? In mid-2014, Alegeus Technologies – a major U.S. processor of benefit accounts and healthcare claims – conducted an independent study and found that while 79% of employers felt that they were providing “excellent” or “very good” clarity of content and depth of information about benefits plans, less than 65% of consumers felt that way. In addition, only 53% of consumers rated employer communication frequency about benefits plans as “excellent” or “very good.”1
If you aren’t all that sure about certain things, you aren’t alone. Just 23% of consumers polled by Alegeus said they fully understood the differences between a PPO, HMO and HDHP. Only 50% of FSA account holders passed a simple quiz on FSA basics, and just 30% of HSA account holders passed a basic test on the function and characteristics of HSAs.1
These employees aren’t dumb; they just don’t understand select facets of their workplace benefits plan. That ultimately comes down to communication.
Communication methods may make all the difference. The more that your company provides information about your benefits plan generically or from “on high,” the more it risks breeding apathy about the plan.
Employee benefits plans come with plenty of jargon, and that jargon makes a lot of people drowsy. A long, lecture-like explanation of the way a benefits plan works may even come off as condescending, especially if the person giving the talk arrives half an hour late and seems to talk to you and your co-workers at arm’s length.
Email is the default tool for notifying workers about changes in a plan, but emails that are too wordy may be too much to absorb, and those that are sloppily written may make workers wonder if HR is fully on top of things.
As labor-intensive as it seems, a phone call may be the best and most caring way to invite you to a talk about your company’s plan, and it can also prove the best way to relay any negative news about the plan.
The bottom line? When it comes to health benefits, you want face-to-face, real time communication. When a company and an adviser take the time to make sure you “get it,” that says something about their commitment to you. If your employer and the financial or insurance professional introducing the plan clearly want to sit down with you and make sure you can use the benefits plan knowledgeably, the benefits offered will become that much more tangible, accessible and vital.
You can’t ask a piece of paper a question about your health plan, but you can ask a question of a human being and get an answer delivered with care and respect. That’s the way it should be.
Alas, just 17% of the employers in the Alegeus survey had a way to offer personalized, interactive recommendations to their employees. In contrast, 60% relied on plan summary documents and boilerplate enrollment forms to communicate a plan’s benefits and foster decision making, and 65% limited communications about company benefits plans to open enrollment periods.1,2
In polling 1,005 employees, Alegeus found that only about half were satisfied with employer communication about their benefits plan. If you aren’t satisfied – and chances are, you aren’t – ask your employer to bring in a benefits professional who can break things down, cut through the jargon and give you a clear picture of your workplace benefits plan.2
1 – alegeus.com/resources/infographics/2014-consumer-and-employer-healthcare-benefits-survey [10/29/14]
2 – benefitnews.com/news/eba_client_communication/advisers-key-to-creating-better-informed-employees-2744193-1.html [10/6/14]