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Online-Enrollment—More-Than-Just-Simplifying-Administration-Enrollment and reporting are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the features and functions of online enrollment platforms. Technology is playing a huge role in communicating benefits information to employees outside of the open enrollment period and enrollment platforms can really maximize your communications efforts, pushing out education to employees and helping to deliver a consistent message.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, employers are shifting to high deductible plans as a part of cost-saving strategies. These plans cover 25% of employees and still, most of them don’t truly understand how their plan works. The high deductible that goes along with these plans can seem daunting, but online enrollment platforms – with tools like defined contribution and interactive avatars – can lessen the blow that comes with introducing these plans and make it easier for employees to make smart decisions about their benefits.

Employee awareness and education is more necessary now than ever in the changing world of healthcare because employees must become better healthcare consumers. And employers need to give them the means to do so. It’s not just about an educational email blast a few times a year – an open line of communication is key. An employer needs to know who their employees are and how to reach them. All of them. Your benefits program is for your employees so let them drive your offerings and communication strategy.

Fortunately, you can use your online enrollment tool to accomplish these goals. A single sign on from other vendor websites provides a seamless experience so that all roads point toward your benefits portal. Awareness of, and access to, educational and wellness programs are supported by consistent email messaging and online content. You can even integrate social media into your platform and receive real-time feedback.

On the benefits administration side, employers are tapping into the other features of their enrollment platforms to streamline year-round tasks like adding new hires, handling qualified event changes, and automation that extends to all areas of routine HR tasks.

The tools and technology are there for you to use. With OE over, now is the time to focus on making that online enrollment tool work for you through the rest of the year. Your employees will thank you.

Putting-Consumer-Driven-Health-Plan-Adoption-on-the-Fast-TrackWith rising costs in the group-based market, trends in health plan design stay pointed at plans with member responsibility. So now, more than ever, employers should be concerned over the effectiveness of their employee benefit communications.

Think your company is doing a great job? The 2017 Alegeus Broker and Employer Research Report finds employers are overconfident about the quality and effectiveness of their program. Employers’ perceptions fell short of consumers’ point of view on clarity of content, depth of information, communication channels, personalization and frequency of communications.

Only reaching out at annual enrollment or relying heavily on plan documents isn’t enough and without support your employees could be set up for failure. Ideally, they should be able to estimate out-of-pocket costs and understand how Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHPs) work alongside funding vehicles like the popular Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA).

Employers can follow these basic guidelines to maximize CDHP participation:

Follow a detailed communications strategy. Using simple messages multiple times a year will resonate. Don’t forget to make the material visually appealing – branding benefits communications and graphically portraying these difficult plans is equally important.

Use multiple communication channels. Understand your audiences and how they want to receive information. Incorporate social media, text messages and external websites into your strategy. Employees prefer to get frequent messages on the devices and sites that they use.

Leverage decision support tools. Take advantage of enrollment self-service portals to provide integrated decision support on an individualized basis. This approach, coupled with a “benefits help desk,” provides a valuable, high-touch experience.

The employee knowledge gap surrounding CDHPs and savings accounts is clear. Don’t put off your communications game plan any longer – we are more than happy to help you get the ball rolling.

Getting-Employers-to-Like-Their-High-Deductible-Plans1As we approach another open enrollment, we struggle to find ways for employees to thoughtfully choose the right health plan. And with high-deductible plans being offered to more employees every year, it complicates the process even more.

While plenty of new tools and resources are available in today’s marketplace, employees still struggle with the basics. A flashy tool or even a 1-2 week timeframe to make a decision is not the right answer. Whether a HDHP is being offered for the first time, or it has been in place for several years, most employees don’t understand how it works, and so their frustration continues to mount.

About 1/4 of employees are currently enrolled in a high-deductible plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2015 Employee Health Benefits Survey. And while enrollment is growing, many employees are enrolled in a plan primarily based on the lower premiums. They are not taking advantage of the free preventive care or the tax savings through health savings accounts.

As we move toward a consumer-driven focus, the role of employers continues to change. So we need to teach consumers how to shop for healthcare throughout the year and talk to doctors about costs. It’s not enough to tell them about a tool they can use once a year. A whole new world exists, and many employees feel stuck with a plan they know little about.

Employers who commit to a thoughtful year round communications strategy will start to make strides with employees understanding their plans. The key is to focus on the core elements of HDHPs and how they work with HSAs – including preventive care, how voluntary benefits play into the mix, negotiating with providers, shopping for prescription drugs, and more.

Getting employees to like their high-deductible plan is an uphill battle. However, soliciting feedback from employees through focus groups and surveys will provide some insight as to where the struggles lie. We have the communication and survey tools to help engage our clients’ employees. Just ask us.

Custom CommunicationsAlthough enrollment in Health Savings Accounts continues to surge, many consumers are still unsure about the benefits and features of these plans. As an employer, you can have a positive impact on your bottom line (and that of your employees) by raising awareness about your company’s HSA plan this open enrollment season.

The Growth of HSAs

In the past six years, enrollment in HSAs has more than tripled, with a 29 percent increase in both the number of accounts and the total amount of HSA assets in the last year alone. The primary reasons for this growth is two-fold: First, the pairing of a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with an HSA can create a significant cost savings for employers in the face of rising health care costs. This savings will also benefit employees, who frequently have a lower premium contribution under a HDHP.

Secondly, HSAs provide a significant tax advantage, as all contributions made to an HSA are tax exempt. As of 2013, employees were allowed to make contributions into their HSA in amounts up to $3,250 per year for an individual policy or $6,450 per year for a family policy. With no expiration date on when these funds can be used, this provides consumers with the ability to plan, save and pay for future medical costs – whether they’re incurred in two months or 20 years. Other factors contributing to the growth of HDHP/HSA plans include:

• An Improving Economy. While HSA contributions started to slump during the recent recession, employers have started increasing their HSA contributions over the last few years. This increase in contributions has encouraged employees to sign up for these plans and contribute themselves.

• The Affordable Care Act. With increased pressure on employers to provide affordable coverage to their employees, interest in HDHP/HSA healthcare plans is growing among employers who are trying to meet ACA mandates while watching their company’s bottom line.

Communicating the Benefits of an HSA

A recent survey found that 65 percent of consumers didn’t understand how HSAs work, with much of the confusion stemming from the differences between HSA and Flexible Spending Accounts. In fact, the vast majority of respondents incorrectly believed that HSA and FSA plans were the same, or that the “use it or lose it” provision of FSA plans applied to HSAs as well.

Make sure your employees understand the benefit of participating in your company’s HSA plan by providing them with clear, concise, easy to understand information that outlines the features and benefits of a Health Savings Account. Information to highlight includes the tax savings on all employer and employee contributions, the long-term, tax-free growth and the increased control over health care spending.

And while open enrollment season is a great time to get the conversation started, it shouldn’t end there. Regular communications about your company’s HSA is an important step in keeping employees engaged and educated about their health care options all year long.