Thursday, April 5, 2012

Benefits Communication Could Use a Boost

In a recent ADP survey, 500 HR decision-makers estimated that only about 40% of their employees understand their benefits, though 80% of the HR leaders said that it’s important for employees to know how their benefits work. It’s hard to tell which of these figures is more remarkable—though it’s not a stretch to believe that nearly half of employees are thought to lack clarity about one of the most important parts of their financial (and sometimes their medical) lives.

Benefits education couldn’t be more critical than it is now, given the move toward “consumerism” in health benefits, such as high-deductible, account-based consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) (that’s a mouthful even for benefits planners). Skyrocketing healthcare costs and healthcare reform are driving a need for employees and their benefits decision-makers at home to take on more responsibility for understanding, navigating, and sharing more of the cost for increasingly complex health coverage options and other benefits. 
Respondents in our January 2012 Trends and OpportunitiesReport emphasized the need to ramp-up employees’ understanding and accountability in accessing and using benefits to become more self-reliant consumers. This is underscored by data from late 2011 by KeltonResearch for eHealthInsurance showing that nearly half of employees don’t know when their company holds open enrollment, and a quarter spend less than 30 minutes reviewing plan options.

So how will we enable employees to make sophisticated benefits and healthcare decisions? Is your organization one of the many in the ADP survey that have no employee communications budget? What stands in the way of getting the word on benefits out to employees and family-members? Let us know what works in your organization, and what you need to help your employees maximize their benefits.

Your feedback is welcome—please let us hear from you.

--by Martha Harrison

Martha Harrison is a writer specializing in health care, employee benefits, and organizational support around workplace health and wellness programs.

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