As children return to school and the year end looms closer, many employers’ health insurance comes up for renewal. While renewal meetings may seem difficult to schedule into a hectic day of business, this year, more than ever, it is crucial to make time for your employees’ insurance education. It doesn’t have to be “another meeting” – make it fun by offering snacks, combining it with a team building exercise, or raffle off a small door prize for everyone in attendance. This small step to encouraging your employee’s participation in their health plan education can go a long way towards employee satisfaction – with their benefits, and ultimately, with their job.
Health insurance has been at the forefront of the news the past couple years, due to the Affordable Care Act, mandatory coverage and the rising cost of premiums. In an employee’s daily life, however, healthcare only becomes a concern when there is an illness, pregnancy or disability. Suddenly, employees may realize they don’t have their ID card, don’t know how their insurance works, which plan they are on, or if they even have insurance. At these times of necessity, employees are scrambling to understand the health insurance system, and it can be overwhelming and stressful. This is one example of why employers should provide continuous opportunities for benefits education, particularly at Open Enrollment. Many employees don’t realize that there are rules to when you can start or end insurance, add dependents, or even utilize the services. Frequently, there is confusion about coverage and calculation of costs.
Prior to an Open Enrollment or renewal meeting, an informal, anonymous questionnaire or survey of your employee’s healthcare needs (i.e. Do they need brand name prescription drug coverage? Do they prefer the tax savings of an HSA compatible plan over the rich benefits of a more traditional plan? Are they looking to limit out of pocket costs and therefore prefer an HMO? etc.) will help you determine if your current plan offering is sufficient to meet employee requests. Your broker should be able to quote you for alternate plan options or alternate carriers, if your current offerings are lacking.
At the actual meeting, representatives from your healthcare carrier or broker’s office should be available to explain the different plan options and what benefits each plan provides. Employees who understand their healthcare benefits are better able to pick a plan that fits their usage, which results in greater satisfaction versus someone who signs up for a plan based on cost, which may or may not cover the services they are most likely to use. If an employee truly understands how their plan works and they can navigate through the networks, referrals, copays, and deductibles, then they are less likely to be surprised by the costs of services, more likely to utilize the networks properly (and therefore pay less out of pocket), and know how to resolve simple claims or authorization issues as they arise. As employees’ decisions are binding for the plan year, it would be a good idea for them to have at least 10-15 minutes to discuss their specific situations with a benefits expert.
If you are an MMC Client, we have a full renewal process in place that ensures you are being given competitive rates and that each employee has received communication regarding their benefit options. At renewal, we can review the employee’s current plan or situation and if their plan did not work as they expected, offer alternatives. We can also review the costs of the plan and the value that it provides. We may be able to create company-specific communication for you to distribute, assist you with shopping for alternative carriers, and create rate comparisons so you will be sure you are getting the best value. If you should have any questions regarding your benefits renewal, whether you are an MMC Client or not, please feel free to contact the MMC Benefits Department at (800) 899-6624.