Health care in the United States is at a crossroads. Behind us is a road full of high health care costs for both employees and employers, and ahead of us is the opportunity for cost-contained health care benefits. This road of health care includes potholes of confusion, and where it will lead the country is yet to be seen. What is certain is that employers will play a key role in this transition as they navigate these changes and guide employees through the process. 

4 tips for effectively communicating during open enrollment for 2014 and beyond

Health care in the United States is at a crossroads. Behind us is a road full of high health care costs for both employees and employers, and ahead of us is the opportunity for cost-contained health care benefits. This road of health care includes potholes of confusion, and where it will lead the country is yet to be seen. What is certain is that employers will play a key role in this transition as they navigate these changes and guide employees through the process.

“Employers have the opportunity to distinguish themselves during this transition to the Affordable Care Act,” said Ronnie Lapidus, senior product manager at Ceridian. “By taking the right approach to open enrollment this year, companies can start building the foundation for a smooth transition next year.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has started an evolution of our country’s health care system, and this transformation brings with it provisions that are confusing for both employees and employers. This year, organizations are faced with the Oct. 1 deadline of communicating to employees the availability of state health care exchanges. Additionally, employer health care requirements and confusion will only multiply next year as organizations encounter additional reporting regulations, the challenge of tracking hours for exempt and non-exempt, and employee questions about exchange eligibility. While the ACA “Play or Pay” mandate has been delayed until 2015, it will be essential that employers use the next 12 months to prepare workers for other upcoming changes  of this law and equip them to be savvy health care system participants.

“Employers have the opportunity to distinguish themselves during this transition to the Affordable Care Act,” said Ronnie Lapidus, senior product manager at Ceridian. “By taking the right approach to open enrollment this year, companies can start building the foundation for a smooth transition next year.”

Employers’ role in ACA education

According to an Aflac 2013 Workforce Report, the passage of ACA has begun the country’s gradual shift of transferring responsibility for health care coverage from employer to employee. Despite this shift, the report finds that consumers are largely unequipped and unprepared to take over this responsibility. In fact, the study finds that three out of four employees agree with the following statement: “I believe my employer will educate me about changes to my health care coverage as a result of health care reform.”

While it’s not necessarily employers’ responsibility to be workers’ main source of health care information, it’s in employers’ best interest to do so. Employees’ incorrect or unwise health care choices can greatly affect their performance and state of mind in the workplace, which, in turn, affects morale and productivity.

“An organization’s approach to and knowledge of its health care benefits can have long-term implications for the business,” said Lapidus. “Employees’ satisfaction with their organization’s benefits directly affects loyalty, productivity, retention and satisfaction.”

4 tips for effective open enrollment communication

As employees’ main source for health insurance information, organizations must carefully and strategically develop their benefits communications plan.  For 2013, a defined health care communications plan will assist organizations in communicating the required information about exchanges by the Oct. 1 deadline. While the activities of this plan will reach their peak during open enrollment, the communications should be connected to a year-round strategy. Consider these tips when communicating health care information to employees.

  1. Encourage assessment. According to the Aflac 2013 Workforce Report, 89% of employees choose the same benefits year over year, regardless of whether they are given more health insurance options. Consequently, it is important that employers provide workers tools to evaluate how they and their families used the health care plan during the previous year and to link that information to how employees can make different benefit choices. 

    For example, if your organization provides a high deductible health care plan, demonstrate to employees the opportunity to have quality health care while benefiting from reduced premiums and the potential to save for future health care needs or even retirement.
  2. Present information clearly and concisely. Rather than overwhelming employees with pages of information, Employee Benefits News recommends that you focus on the key points you want to convey and present them in an easy-to-understand format.
  3. Consider your audience and use multi-media. Not every employee processes information in the same way. For example, Millennial employees may prefer online resources. According to Employee Benefits News, using a variety of media channels – including brochures, call centers, postcards, video tutorials, social media and websites – to communicate the details of your benefit plan will increase the effectiveness of your efforts.
  4. Highlight the value of your plan. For many organizations, there is a disconnect between the amount of money spent on benefits and the employees’ perceived value of these benefits. The Society of Human Resources Professionals encourages companies to communicate the full value of the benefit package by using compensation statements, benefits workshops and employee meetings.

For more information:

  • Explore Ceridian’s Compliance Center
  • Learn about Ceridian Benefits Administration
  • View our Glossary of Today's Health Care Terms Infographic