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Invisibility of High Deductible Health Plans


Based on the generally low participation levels in high deductible health plans (HDHPs), you might think the plans were invisible to employees. And in some respects, they are.

Although employers describe the HDHP’s features, provide detailed examples of how the plans compare to traditional offerings, offer FAQs, hold meetings and just about hold their employees’ hands, many employees still turn a blind eye and deaf ear to this not-so-new plan design.

So what can an employer do to remove the cloak of invisibility?

Here are some ideas:

Don’t Over-complicate

It’s easy to get bogged down in details. Keep your message focused on a few key selling points. Make the details available, but don’t bury your main messages.

Describe the “Worst Case” Scenario

One of the key barriers to HDHP adoption is fear of unpredictable costs. Show employees what the maximum exposure would be in a year of high health care use. Of course, you also want to show how much they might save in a year of low or medium use of health care services.

Use Endorsements

Leadership endorsement of the HDHP and, even more important, personal participation in the plan has a positive impact on employees’ perceptions. Also consider testimonials of HDHP participants themselves. As peers, they carry a high level of credibility among employees and can address issues of concern by describing how they decided to join the HDHP and their personal experience using it.

Connect at Home

Reach out to spouses. Make sure information gets home and spouses are invited to meetings and webinars. Ideally, give spouses access to online decision tools and resources.

Provide Online Tools

Many employees find online plan comparison and cost estimating tools very useful. Not all tools, however, build in tax savings and account growth (if the HDHP is coupled with a Health Savings Account). If not, be sure to highlight these features in other communications.