Don’t risk being half-informed about your workplace health plan

Don’t risk being half-informed about your workplace health plan

facebooktwitterlinkedinby featherred_cross_round_redDo 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

 

Citations.

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]

 

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This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Written by Jaimie Blackman

Jaimie Blackman

Jaimie Blackman — a former music educator & retailer— is a Certified Wealth Strategist & Succession Planner. Jaimie helps business owners maximize the value of their company through education & coaching. He is a frequent speaker at the National Association of Music Merchants, (NAMM) Idea Center and has spoken at Yamaha’s succession advantage.

As a financial literacy educator he has taught at New York University and has lectured at the 92nd Street Y, Marymount Manhattan College and CUNY.

His column is published in The Music & Sound Retailer and contributes to NAMM U online, as well as other industry trade magazines.

Jaimie is CEO of Jaimie Blackman & Company, President of BH Wealth Management, and Creator of MoneyCapsules® and the Sound of Money®.

To register for Jaimie’s live webinars, or to subscribe to his podcasts, visit jaimieblackman.com.

The purpose of this post is to educate. Our content should not be construed as advice. If legal, tax or other advice is required by the readers, professional advice should be sought.

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