Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) are all the rage. While not new by any means—Jen's first CDHP rollout was 10 years ago—they’re expanding among employers fast and furiously, and an increasing number of companies now offer a CDHP alongside more traditional PPO and HMO plans. Soon, it will be rare for a company not to have one in their medical plan lineup, as benefits teams lay roadmaps to help comply with upcoming health care reform requirements and control rising health care costs. Already, 57% of employers offer CDHPs, and 100% of large employers will have one by 2018, according to a study by the Midwest Business Group on Health.
Clearly, CDHPs are the way forward. And we’ve done these long enough to know what landmines lie in wait to destroy your well-laid plans. Here are six common mistakes we still see companies make with their CDHP rollout:
Make it easy on yourself and your employees by designing your CDHP to match the coverage provided by your non-CDHP plans. That way, employees don’t have to sift through detailed plan comparison charts or (gasp!) summaries of benefits coverage to figure out which plan to choose. Nuances in coverage and coinsurance will only increase employee confusion over a plan type that’s already unfamiliar to many workers.
Keep the design simple by only varying the up-front cost elements (think premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums), so employees can spend more time easily comparing what really matters to them—cost—and conclude, “Hey, this CDHP isn’t so different from what I currently have,” or “I could really save some money with this new plan.”
Sure, it’s tempting to make a big contribution to HSA accounts in the first year to boost enrollment levels, but are you going to keep up with it? If the answer is “no,” don’t set yourself up for a perceived take-away in year two by making your initial contributions too generous.
True consumer-driven health care means so much more than plan enrollment: It’s about guiding employees toward making genuine lifestyle changes that impact cost. Controlling costs requires a combination of smart health care use, preventive care utilization, and participation in disease management and wellness programs.
Incentives for participating in wellness programs are growing both in their use by employers and their cash value, but too often wellness programs feel like they operate in their own world disconnected from the health plan. However, when an HSA contribution is aligned with the wellness program and the overall health care strategy, it helps employees connect the dots between all their benefits plans. This creates a unified story and makes active participation in making good health care decisions easier.
Give yourself a pat on the back for leaving yourself lots of lead time to communicate changes to your benefits plans and programs. Now, just because you have nine months before your next enrollment period doesn’t mean you should use all of it to communicate the new CDHP. In fact, you shouldn’t use most of it. Why?
Change can be scary. If you start communicating too soon, you’ll create the impression that the change to a CDHP is bigger than it actually is. Additionally, employees will feel the urge to compare details with existing plans once you start sending CDHP teasers. If details aren’t finalized before you begin sending CDHP-related communications, employees can become frustrated, confused and may tune out … right around the time they should be paying the most attention to your benefits communications so they can make sound enrollment decisions.
While the optimal communication window depends on your workforce and benefits strategy, in most cases employee-facing communications start rolling out two to three months before enrollment. Why did I say “in most cases”? Because we’ve done successful rollouts with the news coming just a month ahead of enrollment. But, if you’re going the full replacement route, you’ll need to start communication much, much earlier—and that nine-month window will come in handy.
While communicating too early can doom your CDHP rollout, so can communicating too late. Allow yourself enough time to lay the foundation for creating smart health care consumers and give your employees a chance to digest and react to the news. Also, when you give employees minimal notice, it causes stress, increases calls to your office and maybe even calls to your CEO. Anticipate employee needs, listen to their feedback, then respond and adjust your communication plan accordingly—all before annual enrollment begins.
Also, don’t discount your sanity. You know how it feels when deadlines sneak up on you and overwhelm your working life. Mitigate that headache by allowing yourself plenty of time to communicate.
Your employees look to you for advice and guidance about their benefits—whether you want them to or not. Even if you shy away from steering employees one way or the other, you still need to have a viewpoint on what plans and health care decisions are best for employees. If you know what scenarios play out best in the CDHP, tell your employees. Don’t be afraid to be bold, and don’t make employees do all the legwork. CDHPs are the future—no need to drag your feet in getting there.