Read tips for engaging employees with their benefits plan and learn important information to communicate in preparation for 2014 PPACA provisions. 

Developing your 2013 benefits communications strategy

Tips for engaging employees and preparing for PPACA provisions

For many employers, there’s generally a flurry of benefits program communication during open enrollment time, but during the rest of the year mum’s the word when it comes to benefits communication. This can be a big missed opportunity for employers who are trying to engage and educate employees on the various personal choices they have to make.

“Employees make choices about their health, finances and other life issues year-round that can affect their work and productivity,” says Mary Jo Davis, vice president for product management at Ceridian.  “Ongoing communication to help them make good choices and to maintain awareness of the benefits available to them is critical to maximizing the value of benefit programs. That communication will be especially critical this year with key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) going into effect on January 1, 2014.”

According to the Institute for HealthCare Consumerism, failing to engage employees in year-round benefits communication has clear implications. For every $1 of medical and pharmacy expenses to treat employees, employers lose $2.30 in productivity through either sick days or reduced on-the-job productivity.

On the other hand, results from a recent Benz Communication survey found that of companies that communicate year-round, 84 percent reported meeting all or nearly all of their benefits goals.

When planning your benefits communication strategy, it’s important to have clear goals in mind to ensure optimum effectiveness and engagement with your employees.

Tips for engaging employees with their benefits plan

Below are five communication tips from the Institute for HealthCare Consumerism for engaging employees year-round in their benefits plan:

  • Take a multi-channel approach – use social media, blogs, websites, print or other electronic communication to reach your employees in whatever way they find most accessible and effective.
  • Be relevant – what do employees need or want to hear? Emphasize that employees are the key decision makers and are in charge of their own health.
  • Define healthy behaviors and offer incentives – highlight the benefits available to employees (e.g., preventative care, immunizations, etc.). Offer incentives for making healthy choices.
  • Create a year-round communication strategy – include seasonal health issues like staying fit in winter or wearing sunscreen in the summer.
  • Track and measure results and progress – survey employees about their satisfaction with their benefits plan as well as track the costs to employers and employees.

Preparing for 2014 PPACA provisions

Communicating benefits information year-round is important every year, but it’s especially important this year. As employers prepare for the 2014 PPACA provisions, thinking through a benefits communication strategy becomes even more important.

“Employers will need to help employees understand the choices available to them under PPACA at the end of this year,” says Davis. “The media will be full of stories about health care options through the state exchanges and new requirements for individuals and employers. Employees will need help understanding the specific choices available to them, based on their benefit options.”

According to Benz Communications, here are three important things to communicate about PPACA this year:

  1. State exchange basics – describe the state exchange, what services the exchange provides and how to contact the exchange. Not all states have decided how they’re going to comply yet. The Kaiser Family Foundation is tracking where things stand
  2. Your plan value – you need to tell employees if they will receive at least 60% coverage of essential health benefits and if an employee might be eligible for a premium tax credit if they purchase a plan on the state exchange.
  3. Tax implications – if an employee does purchase a health plan through the exchange, the money an employer contributes toward insurance will go away. Because the money an individual spent on employer-sponsored coverage is not taxed, buying coverage through the state exchange may change the individual’s tax obligation. Employers will then not be able to deduct this coverage as a business expense.

Armed with these tips and a communications strategy for 2013, your organization can better reach its benefits and business goals leading into next year, as well as better engage employees in their benefits plan all year long.

For more information:

  • Visit our HR Legislation Blog
  • Learn more about PPACA rules and regulations