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In just a few short months, employees around the country will be deciding on their benefits coverage for 2019.

Why-your-employees-choose-the-wrong-benefitsIn advance of this big event, employers are embarking on annual planning around plan design and pricing, and likely scratching their heads about how to get employees to pay attention.

We know from our research that employees tend to spend just a few minutes researching and enrolling in benefits. Generally, they rely on their experience in the current year and then simply pick the same option.

But, that can result in employees who are over-insured and paying for a plan that doesn’t match their health and lifestyle. They can be underinsured, having picked the lowest-premium plan without understanding the costs or choosing additional voluntary coverage. They may not have opened an available HSA and be missing out on employer seed money.

While today’s progressive benefits offer opportunities for employees to pick and pay for a suite of benefits that meets their specific needs, sometimes inertia or lack of understanding causes them to do just the opposite.

Here are two ways to help employees choose and use their benefits better.

  1. What’s in a name? We are sometimes guilty as benefits experts of peppering our employee content with jargon. That’s certainly a no-no. But, so is referring to options in a way that is either scary or may carry a value judgement. For example, calling medical options Gold Plan, Silver Plan and Bronze Plan can give employees the impression that one plan is better (or worse) than another and drive poor decision-making.

By the same token, we continue to refer to plans as high-deductible plans even when this may no      longer even be accurate. I’ve seen employers have a PPO with a $1200 deductible alongside an HSA-  eligible plan with a $1350 deductible and still call the latter a high-deductible plan. For that $150 difference, employees may be losing out on premium savings and the opportunity to put money in an HSA because they fear the high deductible.

  1. Break it up. Annual Enrollment is the kick-off, it’s not the end game. If you think of the timing, employees are often enrolling in benefits two to three months before those benefits are effective. And, before their new options are effective, you have a few major holidays, perhaps a snowstorm or two and potentially at least a couple of days of year-end vacation time. That’s not a recipe for having benefits top of mind when the new year rolls around.

January is a great time to start to send messaging to employees about their benefits. Remind them what they’ve chosen, and give a little plug for why each benefit is important. You don’t need to do this all in the first month of the year. Stretch it out and use different channels to ensure employees are getting the message.

And, while strategic messages are great, you might consider more administrative education as well. Letting people know their deductible has reset or reminding them they need to get a new prescription for a maintenance medication if they’re changed options will help them better use their benefits.

Benefits aren’t rocket science, but they can be complicated for employees who have lots of other things on their minds. If you want better engagement and understanding, there are techniques that can help.

Check out our recent webinar for more insights.

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View all Posts by Beth Begany