Which medical plan should I choose? 

Do I need voluntary benefits? 

What about life and disability insurance? 

If you are a benefits professional, it’s likely you’ve been asked these questions multiple times. When employees are going through new employee orientation and annual open enrollment, they often come to you seeking guidance. 

Typically, employees are asking these questions because they don’t fully understand their choices. In fact, according to a survey by Voya Financial, nearly one-third of American workers don’t fully understand the employee benefits they signed up (and paid) for.  

The conundrum for benefit professionals is that you can’t tell employees which benefits to choose. Yet you can provide tools to help employees evaluate their choices. At Westcomm, we always recommend that employers provide education and decision-making tools in a few different formats.  

Below are some of the unique and useful ways that you can help employees get a handle on their benefit choices. 

Virtual Benefits Assistant  

If you want a robust tool, our Virtual Benefits Assistant explains benefit plans in detail using easy-to-understand terms (no insurance jargon!), video and animation. Users are able to watch all sections or just visit the ones of interest to them. Plus, the Virtual Benefits Assistant can be accessible from work or home. This is particularly nice for a workforce that doesn’t spend much time in front of a computer (e.g., manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality).  

Podcasts 

Audible, Spotify, Stitcher, Apple, Google—all are building large audience bases for podcasts. People like consuming information this way because it’s an easy, on-the-go, multi-task-friendly option. They can tune in while they drive, walk, exercise—wherever they are. Podcasts can also be more intimate, and they’re perfect for sharing the personal side of benefits. Consider having employees share why they decided which medical plan was best for them or how a preventive care visit saved their life or why they chose a particular voluntary benefit. Podcasts can also fill that communication space in benefits for those seeking advice from someone who has to make similar decisions. If you’re concerned about keeping that information internal, there are podcast platforms that you can set privacy settings so it can’t be shared externally.  

Online Forum 

According to a Fortune article, the disconnect between the benefits that employees want and what they sign up for often comes down to a lack of dialogue. So giving employees a place to ask questions is critical to clarifying benefits and helping employees feel confident in their benefit elections. Generally, employees have similar questions, so a digital space allows everyone to view questions and answers and share information with each other.  

Ochsner Health Medical Cost Calculator Example

Medical Plan Cost Calculator 

Our web-based calculator allows employees to enter estimated expenses—annual premiums, visits to the doctor, prescriptions, etc.—and then get a comparison of how the estimated expenses stack up with each plan. This enables employees to think more comprehensively about their medical coverage. Employees have a greater understanding of what they are purchasing and why—and that goes a long way.  

Medical Plan Scenarios 

Sometimes it’s helpful for employees to see how a medical plan works in a particular situation. To do that, create written scenarios based on your employee usage data. We usually recommend 3-4 scenarios that appeal to the largest segments of your employee population. Generally, these scenarios compare different coverage levels (single vs. family) and healthcare usage (infrequent healthcare needs to chronic conditions) to illustrate estimated costs by plan. We often provide these as short videos as well to appeal to those who are more audio-visual learners. 

Benefits Decisions Require Time 

A report from PlanSource reveals that most people spend just 18 minutes on average enrolling in their benefits. By contrast, the average consumer spends four hours deciding to purchase a mobile phone. 

That’s startling given that benefit choices can significantly impact employee bank accounts and last for an entire year. You can help employees make better decisions by making tools like those mentioned in this blog readily available throughout the year.  

If these types of benefit decision-making tools aren’t being discussed at your organization, now is the time. And if you need help, Westcomm is here to assist. Simply reach out at helloindy@westcomm.com or follow us on LinkedIn for more insights. 

2022 Benefit Communications Report: Insights Into What Matters

We have a pulse on the state of benefit communications, and you can too! Learn the top three challenges facing employee benefits professionals, common communication tools, and how to measure success.

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