Benefits and Compensation

Filling Communication Gaps: 3 Strategies for Health Benefits Education

For employers aiming to promote employee wellness while controlling healthcare costs, establishing an effective communication and education strategy for health benefits is crucial. Evidence shows that people with higher patient activation have better health outcomes, which leads to cost savings for both the employer and patients.

As we ride the wave of increased healthcare costs, with employer healthcare costs in the U.S. estimated to increase by 8.5% this year, employers have reached their breaking point with no end in sight. Health benefits are the second largest people expense for businesses, so leaders must prioritize new solutions that control spending without impacting coverage quality for their workforce. The following tactics can help fill gaps in health benefits education and cultivate a system to control costs while supporting health outcomes.

Ensure access to continuous, educational resources.

A quality healthcare benefits package is only as good as the communication strategy behind it. This starts with open enrollment, which lays the foundation for employees to understand the complexities of the healthcare system and the plans available to them. Open Enrollment should be clear, efficient and engaging with all team leads aligned on messaging, especially when it comes to explaining changes to health plans and structure year over year.

However, open enrollment is just the tip of the iceberg of a benefits education strategy. Ongoing, consistent education is essential for employee wellness and the company’s bottom line, but many employers rely on open enrollment to suffice as their entire strategy. According to a study by Metlife, 62% of employees say understanding how to use their benefits would give them a greater sense of overall stability while 50% say having a better understanding of their benefits would make them more loyal. This is where ongoing education and resources come into play.

An effective communication strategy informs employees by distributing educational resources that clearly instruct plan users on how to utilize the services and goods provided by their plan. This includes offering regular workshops, webinars, Q&A sessions or panels with local providers to employees that dive into the need for care and pain points along the healthcare journey. It’s also important to provide access to an HR lead or benefits representative who can answer questions and concerns throughout the year.

Given the diverse workforce today, there is not a one-size-fits-all communication strategy. Health plans and the education that backs them up must be tailored to meet the unique needs or preferences of each business.

Guide employees to seek the right care at the right time.

Lack of employee engagement and education can lead to uncontrollable and unsustainable health plan costs that impact both employers and employees. Business leaders have the opportunity to advocate for their employees’ healthcare journey by steering employees to the appropriate care to fit their needs. When employees understand their coverage and how to access in-network providers before they need care, they are more likely to have their healthcare needs met in an outpatient or telehealth setting that is more convenient and affordable.

Employers can integrate steerage strategies to guide employees to the right providers given their needs. Educating employees on where and how to access routine testing and check-ups can help improve health outcomes and act as a key driver for cost reduction. According to recent data, 33% of American adults reported they or a family member have skipped a recommended medical test or treatment in the past year due to cost, which in turn can lead to more costly health complications. Removing barriers to preventative care by offering resources helps to lower the need for intensive care.

Removing barriers to preventative care and encouraging healthier habits also helps to manage the demand on the healthcare system. Educating employees on lifestyle changes can create less of a strain on providers and lower costs associated with emergency room visits, chronic illness management and long-term medication needs. Along the same lines, better education can help manage prescription drug costs by motivating employees to save through a combination of identifying generic drugs, accessing rebates and using available coupons. These tactics can have a significant impact by curbing pharmaceutical expenses that are increasing at an unsustainable pace.

Create an ecosystem of support.

Employers tend to off-source health benefits management on the assumption that this method offers more stability; however, establishing a self-funded health plan allows for more control of the health plan’s performance and transparency. Being able to offer a simplified health plan means employers and families more instinctively understand their coverage, allowing them to use their benefits more effectively.

More and more employers are choosing to work directly with local healthcare providers and third-party administrators to develop community-based, direct-to-employer (DTE) health plans, which can reduce costs by up to 30% compared to traditional insurance plans by aligning the interests of local employers and healthcare providers for cost savings across all parties involved. DTE plans are grounded in collaboration and create the opportunity to work with providers and other key partners, including consultants, brokers and third-party administrators, to develop an effective education strategy. For example, third-party administrators can help by offering easy-to-understand documents listing where to access care or videos overviewing important considerations for making healthcare decisions.

Collaborating with experts in the healthcare insurance field can offer business leaders invaluable resources to engage employees and ensure an effective wellness program. Successful communication of health benefits is a fundamental tool for responding to increasing healthcare costs and improving health outcomes. Implementing systems that engage employees and empower them to make informed decisions on health care plays a vital role in ensuring long-term well-being that won’t break the bank.

Oliver Ayres serves as the president of Key Benefit Administrators (KBA), one of the country’s largest independently owned third-party administrators, focused on improving the health of the population they serve. The KBA team is working to increase healthcare access and affordability by concentrating on community-based solutions. Oliver and his team have worked with local healthcare provider organizations to develop direct-to-employer (DTE) health benefit plans in eight markets across the country, most recently in East Tennessee. The desire to find creative and innovative ways to improve health and help families navigate the healthcare system is what drives Oliver and KBA to find ways to make a positive impact on the healthcare landscape.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *