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Fall 2015: Health and Insurance Literacy

Understanding and maximizing today’s benefits

Read any magazine, newspaper or online blog having to do with healthcare and insurance and you’ll probably see a common thread: consumerism. Consumerism is, simply put, the result of a momentous shift in the way healthcare is delivered and insurance covers it. Once the responsibility of only the employer and/or government, this shift now puts an increasing burden on individual consumers to understand, manage and, in fact, fund their healthcare and purchase their insurance. Because of this shift, consumers must know and do more; they must become healthcare and insurance “literate.” And as a result, benefits communication – which has always been important – has become critical!

Today, employers of all kinds and sizes, along with their advisors, need to equip employees with the kind of information that not only helps with plan choices, but also explains the jargon and esoteric language of benefits. It’s a good bet that the majority of employees don’t know the true differences between a copayment and coinsurance. Nor do they understand what an embedded deductible is or how it works. They probably can’t distinguish an FSA from an HSA and how funds are accessed or why one might be preferable to the other.

With this transition from a “wholesale” to “retail” environment, employees and their family members take on the added burden of becoming more knowledgeable and conversant with all the elements of healthcare and insurance. No longer can they rely solely on their employer to know and take care of this for them. Healthcare and insurance literacy is key and it will be achieved with clear, simple and meaningful communication.

More than ever, employers and their advisors have to communicate effectively to employees. They must continually reinforce information. Moreover, employers need to recognize that nowadays their workers consume their information in different ways. Thus, employers have to be able to communicate using a variety of media, including print materials, online brochures and benefit summaries, recorded presentations, as well as video and self-directed tutorials. While the use of digital media grows and provides convenient access to information, there will always be a need to address those who want, need and rely on print materials, especially when information needs to get to a spouse or other family member who makes the benefits decisions. In other words, an email to the employee won’t always suffice.

And although employers have traditionally relied on Open Enrollment as the one time to do most, if not all, of their communicating, there is a need to provide information throughout the year, recognizing that some employees won’t pay attention until they actually need healthcare services. Creating healthcare and insurance literacy is an ongoing, not once a year, challenge and obligation. In the end, the employee who is the most healthcare and insurance literate will also be the employee who appreciates his or her benefits the most, and who ultimately makes the best choices and use of those benefits, positively impacting everyone’s bottom line.

BeneCom Associates is the partner you need to create and execute a customized strategy and deliver the highest quality communications programs that ensure your employees are healthcare and insurance literate. We help build your communications plan around your organization's specific culture, audience, and organizational objectives. For more information, click here or call us today at 860-674-2626.

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