Employers have been encouraging workers to take a more active role in their health to help offset the overall costs of healthcare in the United States. Consumer-directed health plans and their costs have somewhat helped fuel this encouragement but not enough. According to a PolicyGenius survey, over 95 percent of the 2,000 respondents were unable to identify common healthcare terms such as out-of-pocket maximum, coinsurance and copay amount.
Dangers of Employees Not Understanding Benefits
If employees lack a basic understanding of such terms and their implications, they cannot be trusted to make smart choices regarding their health plan selection or their general healthcare. Also, not understanding the concept of cost sharing means that they cannot understand the difference between types of health plans such as HSAs, HMOs and others.
Making healthcare decisions can literally mean life or death, and that should be enough to motivate Americans to do more research before making important decisions. However, most Americans spend more time researching which car to buy than researching which health plan to buy. An Aflac survey showed that not even 50 percent of Americans spend more than 30 minutes researching health plans before making a decision, and that time increment is one-fourth of the average time spent on researching televisions before making a purchase decision. Also, it reflects one-tenth of the time spent on planning a vacation.
Another disturbing discovery for researchers was that Americans reported wasting an average of $750 annually on poor choices related to health benefits. This could include anything from picking a plan that does not cover a certain medication to choosing a plan that provides inadequate coverage for certain procedures. These costs also impact employers. For these reasons, employers need to provide better education about benefits and provide continuing education. This may be a challenge for some employers if their HR department is already burdened and does not have much extra time for presentations and frequent meetings.
When educating employees about their benefits, it is important to show them how their choices impact their wallets in addition to explaining how choices may impact their health. If employers offer a wide variety of plans, they must encourage their workers to compare the plans based on individual needs and especially how to compare costs. At UBF, we can help with everything from providing educational materials to consulting with the company about the effectiveness of ongoing educational efforts.
How UBF Can Help
While any attempt to educate workers about benefits is good, many larger workplaces provide a group meeting. Some workers may not benefit from such a setup. A worker may feel embarrassed to ask a question if he or she does not understand something. One-on-one meetings may be hard to arrange frequently with an HR representative. However, UBF provides one-on-one meetings for employees to discuss individual needs.
With this personalized setup, workers are more likely to choose the plan that fits them best. It also allows them to ask any question without the fear of feeling embarrassed. We at UBF can provide a wide scope of issues to address. For example, we talk to employees about their current and future family status and plans as well as past health issues. Additionally, our team members teach employees how to use their selected plan to optimize their health. We also coordinate transparency and advocacy services. In the end, this means a healthier workforce, happier employees and less productivity lost to illnesses.
Alan Wang is the President of UBF and serves as the lead consultant. He has delivered the UBF solution set throughout the world and is highly regarded for his areas of expertise. You can follow him on Twitter @UBFconsulting.