Skip to content
Jennifer Benz April 26, 2016 3 min read

Simple ways to build better health consumers—right now

Chances are you already have a good number of employees in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). And, if you’re like most large employers, you’ll be pushing more employees that way in the coming years.

In fact, 86% of companies with more than 1,000 employees offer an HDHP, with a quarter of those companies offering an HDHP as the only health plan option. We expect to see more companies offer an HDHP as the only option, despite the daunting cost implications associated with the plans. 

Some of the lowest earning families in America will need 30% of their income to cover the average HDHP out-of-pocket maximum. That's a staggering number. A majority of low-income workers—55% of them—experience problems paying medical bills or have medical debt. And employees at all socio-economic levels are finding it difficult to navigate the current health care system. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), "There's strong evidence that workers simply lack the ability to successfully navigate the complex and technical nature of health care."

Since employees trust you to give them the information they need about their benefits, you’re in an ideal position to help them. Reining in health care costs can only happen if employees use their benefits wisely. This is another argument you can use in support of a communications budget that provides robust, year-round communication to help employees make the most of their benefits.

There are lots of habits you want employees to learn so they can become savvy health care consumers—things they need to do to ensure they receive the best and safest medical care— including how to use their plan properly and how to choose lower-cost providers. To get a handle on what employees need to know, check out the Ten Behaviors of an Engaged Health Consumer infographic that’s posted on Janet McNichol’s Workplace Wellness blog.

From this easy-to-understand visual, you’ll realize you may already be offering many resources that address your employees’ needs, including: health savings accounts, cost and quality comparison tools, wellness incentives such as health and fitness screenings, and concierge services that help take the guesswork out of using benefits. But there’s also a good chance your employees are not using many of these resources.

8 terms screenshotEducating and reminding employees about the benefits of using these services takes year-round communication and support. It is up to you to remind, nudge, and push them to the tools and resources that can help them.

As many of you gear up for your annual benefits enrollment, this is the perfect time of year to build health literacy and promote resources. Here are a couple of resources that can help you:

  • Our 8 Insurance Terms Every American Needs to Know infographic will give your health literacy efforts an extra boost. This 12-page guide offers plain-language definitions and simple visuals to explain common health insurance words and phrases that are critical for every consumer to know. 
  • The Choosing Wisely Toolkit—which we created with the National Business Coalition on Health and the Pacific Business Group on Health—can help tee up the broader conversation about quality, costs, and having meaningful dialogues with providers. The toolkit contains dozens of ready-to-use articles and tip sheets for your communication. You can put them on your website and send them to employees to help them understand their role in getting the best care and outcomes.

In an ideal world, you’d have a robust budget to support the year-round benefits communications your employees need when they’re making daily decisions that affect their health and financial security. If you don’t live in that world, take advantage of free and low-cost resources from your vendors, consultants, and brokers to promote the valuable services you offer. To learn more about creating successful, year-round communications, watch our Master Class webinar, Creating results: Three steps to success with your benefits communication.

Jennifer Benz

Jennifer Benz, SVP Communications Leader, has been on the leading edge of employee benefits for more than 20 years and is an influential voice in the employee benefits industry.