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Pssssst! Have you had the “ACA talk” with your employees?

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Just because the employer mandate has been delayed, it doesn’t mean you can delay talking to your employees about ACA.

Your employees are now hearing a lot about ACA on the news, from their friends, and online. If you haven’t already begun to communicate the latest on ACA to your employees, the clock is ticking!

 What should you tell them?

While each company has to decide how to best tell the ACA story, when it comes to communicating the 1/1/14 ACA changes to your employees, you need to tell them a lot about exchanges, what you offer in the way of medical coverage (and how it complies with the ACA) and give them guidance about what they should do if they do not qualify for your company-provided medical plans.

 So… how it will affect your benefits offering?

Much of what your employees are hearing in the media focuses on how individuals who currently are without medical insurance will be able to purchase coverage with a January 1, 2014 effective date. But if you offer a medical plan, what most of your employees will need to know is what kind of changes they will be seeing in your upcoming Open Enrollment materials—including how much their benefits will cost next year. If some of your employees will need to purchase coverage through the exchanges (due to your plan’s eligibility requirements), you’ll need to let them know that, too—by October 1, 2013.

 Honesty is the best policy

In your employee communications, be sure to indicate why certain changes are being made (i.e., to control health care costs) and how it will affect their bottom line. Also, if you’re making major plan changes, rolling out new wellness programs, introducing HSAs or other new plan features, be sure to explain the strategy behind those changes. Many employers adopt a “we’re in this together” approach to let their employees know that both the company and employees benefit when health care costs are contained, and employees do their part to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Don’t just say your benefit changes are “due to health care reform” if they’re not. And don’t be afraid to let your employees know that change is the new normal—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With the right messaging, you can position new plan features as benefit enhancements, even when costs are rising.

Explain the buzz words!

Finally, when it comes to health care reform, be sure that your employees understand essential terms and what they mean in the new ACA world, like “exchanges,”  “minimum essential coverage,” “subsidies,” “gold, silver, and bronze plans.” Do what you can to help take the mystery out of health care reform.