Recent data from a survey performed by Voya Financial indicates that over a third (35%) of employees—including 54% of millennials—do not fully understand any of the benefits they’ve selected. During open enrollment periods, employees report feeling confused (22%), stressed (21%), and anxious (20%). Two-thirds of employees are eager for their employers to offer better guidance and education about their benefits—and not just at open enrollment periods, but throughout the year. Some common misconceptions noted by Voya include a belief that unused Health Savings Account funds disappear at the end of a year or that the most expensive insurance premiums would always lead to the maximum cost efficiency.
Understandably, employees may forget about the entire enrollment process after selecting health plans, especially if they don’t expect to need to use these benefits right away. However, when a health concern pops up several months later, they may suddenly realize that they do not fully know how to address the problem and use their benefits. In these cases, individuals might not know where to turn when it comes to learning more.
Health insurance plans, especially supplemental benefits like critical illness insurance or hospital indemnity insurance, can be incredibly confusing and somewhat intimidating to understand. Additionally, while a plan’s outline might appear clear and simple, many people at one time or another have encountered unexpected costs or challenges in receiving care due to misinterpreting plan details and fine print. Even healthcare providers, who often estimate costs before submitting a claim to insurance, can get it wrong. Benefits have also grown in complexity, and employees often have more than just a health plan and pension to choose from.
Learn About Employees’ Personal Needs, Goals
Most employees do not know what combination of options will work best for their unique needs and goals. Some might assume selecting more costly benefits will help them the most, when in reality they are paying for more in premiums than they would save with a more affordable plan. During enrollment periods, employers can better guide employees in the enrollment process if they get to know what a particular individual wants to achieve. Do they plan to make frequent doctor visits or have on-going health concerns? Then perhaps it is worth investing in a higher-premium plan; otherwise, these plans may end up costing more for an employee who does not foresee needing much medical intervention throughout the year. Financial goals, comfort level with risks, lifestyle factors, and family responsibilities can all factor into an employee’s decision-making process when selecting different benefits and plans.
Communicate And Simplify Plan Information
The solution may seem simple: employees need more communication from their employers when it comes to learning about benefits. Being open and accessible is one part of the equation; however, the information provided also needs to be easy to understand. Consider enhancing the documentation provided to employees about their options, and keep in mind that different people process information differently. Visual tools might be easier for some to grasp, such as colorful graphs or charts comparing benefits against one another. For others, reading about different examples of how one might use a healthcare plan for a certain need might illustrate their options more clearly. Employers can also send reminder emails or notifications at certain points throughout the year directing employees to a portal or documentation that can answer questions and remind them about what they have access to.