Part One: Q&A with President of UMB Healthcare Services Ben Morris and Jen Benz, CEO of Benz Communication

Healthcare is one of the most important benefits employees will take advantage of in their careers, but many employees don’t think about or fully understand their benefits until they have a situation where they need to use them.

President of UMB Healthcare Services Ben Morris recently asked Jen Benz, CEO of Benz Communication a few questions on how employers can help employees better understand their healthcare options and benefits.

How should employers be talking to their employees about healthcare benefits?

Employers are uniquely positioned to help employees understand their healthcare benefits. A big part of that is helping them understand the different options that are available to them. This means not only helping them choose the program that will benefit them the most physically, but also financially and emotionally. In our experience, we’ve found this is best done by engaging employees in a concerted communication effort using three tried and true tactics:

  1. Get online.
    Providing a single website for healthcare related questions, and a streamlined benefits website gives employees and family members access to valuable content. Having a secure vendor website also makes it easy to take action and complete transactions. This way, employees can get the information they need and act by visiting just one website.
  2. Engage with employees and their families year-round.
    Employees need information year-round on how to use benefits effectively. Believe it or not, many companies still talk to employees about their benefits only once a year. However, as we’ve seen, healthcare laws can and do change, and providing constant communication about how new and evolving rules and regulations could affect employees becomes even more important.
  3. Measure and improve.
    How effective is your communication? Look at web traffic, email click-through and open rates and meeting attendance. What’s your program participation and use? Gain a clear picture of communication effectiveness and gaps by looking at:

    • Health and wellness plan enrollment and participation
    • Preventive care, financial wellness program and employee assistance program utilization
    • Health and financial outcomes—for instance, biometric and claims data as well as retirement plan and HSA balances show where employees are doing well and where they’re still getting stuck.

You mentioned engaging with employees and their families year-round. What sort of conversations and educational opportunities can be used to engage employees?

When it comes to employees, one size most definitely does not fit all. You’ll learn more about employees as individuals by asking the questions that matter. You will also gain greater insight into what drives your people when you view them as individuals and focus your information-gathering activities accordingly. Once you know what matters most to them, you can start to build messages and education opportunities that better resonate, helping to educate them about the things they care about, which is a win/win.

Should employers focus conversations on health rather than benefit selection?

They’re both equally important conversations to have with employees. During enrollment, it’s the employer’s job to make things easy and clear—and make sure employees and their families are focused on what they need to do at that time.

In reality, the most important questions employees have are also the most basic: What’s new? What will it cost me? What do I have to do? Make sure you answer these questions in a simple and direct manner. A one-page enrollment “tip sheet” that lists changes, includes brief enrollment instructions, and tells employees and families where to go for details will usually suffice. Some employees want just the top-line info, while others want all the details. This one-page overview will be helpful for both groups.