As we enter election season, many ideas are being put forth on how to achieve quality, affordable health care. In terms of what’s ahead, change is the only thing that’s certain, whether it’s in the form of new legislation or policies — or modifications to health plans. Although the future of health care is unclear, there are actions that both employers and employees can take to ensure they’re each getting what they want from their health benefits.
For employers, they want to keep employees happy and satisfied. They want health benefits employees can easily understand and a program that operates so smoothly, it practically runs itself — with very few questions and complaints directed toward HR. And of course, employers want to achieve all of this at a fairly reasonable cost.
For employees, they want to be able to understand and anticipate the costs of care. For a particular service, like a doctor’s visit or hospital stay, they want to know what their plan will cover and what they’ll be responsible for paying. They want access to high-quality doctors, medical facilities, and hospitals. And they want to be able to understand how their benefits work so they can make use of them and live a healthy life.
Imagine a scenario where both parties get what they want. In my position at HealthComp, based in Fresno, this is what I strive to achieve. I work with employers here and across the country to transform the experience of health benefits into one that both companies and their workers value. A critical part to achieving this objective is getting both sides “engaged” in health care. Employer-employee engagement goes a long way toward achieving the quality, affordable care we all want.
So, what is “engagement,” and what does it take to get an employer and employees to do their part? When employees are engaged, they take an active role in understanding their health plan and using it wisely. They’re more likely to access preventive care and wellness programs and strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Employers play a role by keeping employees informed and excited about their benefits and empowering them to be more proactive in their own care. Together, all of these actions contribute to bringing about positive results.
First, it’s important to remember that engagement requires a dedication to education. In order for employees to take advantage of benefits, like cancer screening and disease management programs, they must first be aware that they exist and how to use them. We’ve worked with employers to develop communication plans that lay out a strategic timeline for educating employees on their health benefits. For example, material can be distributed prior to an open enrollment period, so employees can take a look at various plan options, ask questions and determine what’s the best plan for them.
Whether in paper or digital format, the most successful communications are written clearly and succinctly. Benefits jargon should be avoided, as it can be intimidating for employees who are unfamiliar with such verbiage. For example, terms like “deductible” should be defined in layman’s terms, so employees can more easily grasp these concepts. Material that is also fresh and pleasing to the eye can grab employees’ attention and encourage them to keep reading.
Having different types of learning resources can help companies reach employees of all ages. For example, younger, tech-savvy workers may gravitate toward digital platforms they can access on their phones, whereas older employees may prefer to review their benefits information in a printed format.
When companies foster education, employees are encouraged to take part. They may take extra time to review their benefits literature, understand the services available as part of their plan, and attend ongoing seminars to learn more. In this way, employees become more knowledgeable and invested in managing and improving their own health. As a result, overall workplace morale and productivity may rise, and the need for health services may decrease, reducing costs and creating additional value for all.