Tag Archives: open enrollment

5 Health Insurance Tips for Small Business

For a small business owner, offering competitive employee benefits is a crucial way to attract and retain strong talent. Whether you currently provide them and are planning next year’s renewal, or you are thinking of offering them for the first time, here are five things you should consider before your employees enter the open enrollment period for next year on Nov. 1:

Small Businesses Don’t Have to Wait

While your employees won’t be able to enroll in health insurance plans until November comes along, small business owners don’t have to wait at all to secure health insurance for their employees. The sooner you act, the better, to guarantee that you and your employees are protected. According to recent studies, healthier employees are happier employees and, as a result, will contribute to a more productive workplace. A more positive and constructive work environment is better for you, your employees and your business as a whole.

Health Literacy Is Important

Whether you’ve provided health insurance to your employees before, or you’re looking into doing so for the first time, it is always worthwhile to prioritize health insurance literacy. There is a host of terminology and acronyms, not to mention rules and regulations that can be overwhelming to wrap your head around.

The internet is full of relevant information, ranging from articles to explainer videos, that should have you up to speed in no time. Having a good understanding of insurance concepts such as essential health benefits, employer contributions, out-of-pocket maximums, coinsurance, provider networks, co-pays, premiums and deductibles is a necessary step to being better-equipped to view and compare health plan options side-by-side. A thorough familiarization with health insurance practices and terms will allow you to make the most knowledgeable decisions for your employees and your business.

Offering Health Insurance Increases Employee Retention

Employees want to feel like their health is a priority and are more likely to join a company and stay for longer if their healthcare needs are being met. A current survey shows that 56% of Americans whose employers were sponsoring their healthcare considered whether or not they were happy with their benefits to be a significant factor in choosing to stay with a particular job. The Employee Benefit Research Institute released a survey in 2016 that showed a powerful connection between decent workplace health benefits and overall employee happiness and team spirit. 59% of employees who were pleased with their benefits were also pleased with their jobs. And only 8% of employees who were dissatisfied with their benefits were satisfied with their jobs.

Alleviate Health Insurance Costs

High insurance costs can be an obstacle for small business owners. A new survey suggests that 53% of American small business owners stress over the costs of providing healthcare to their employees. The 2017 eHealth report reveals that nearly 80% of small business owners are concerned about health insurance costs, and 62% would consider a 15% increase in premiums to make small group health insurance impossible to afford. However, there are resources in place to help reduce these costs. One helpful way to cut down on health insurance costs is to take advantage of potential tax breaks available to small business owners. All of the financial contributions that employers make to their employees’ premiums are tax-deductible, and employees’ financial contributions are made pre-tax, which will decrease a small business’ payroll taxes.

Additionally, if your small business consists of fewer than 25 employees, you may be eligible for tax credits if the average yearly income for your employees is below $53,000. For small business owners, the biggest driver on insurance cost will be the type of plan chosen in addition to the average age of your employees. Your employees’ health is not a factor.

Use Digital Resources

You don’t have to be an insurance industry expert to shop for medical plans. There are resources and tools available that make buying medical plans as easy as purchasing a plane ticket or buying a pair of shoes online. Insurance is a very complex industry that can easily be simplified with the use of the advanced technology and design of online marketplaces. These platforms are great tools for small business owners to compare prices and benefits of different plans side-by-side. Be confident while shopping for insurance because all of the information is laid out on the table. Technological solutions such as digital marketplaces serve as useful tools to modernize the insurance shopping process and ensure that you and your team are covered without going over your budget.

U.S. Healthcare: No Simple Insurtech Fix

I hadn’t worried much about U.S. health insurance in years, eight to be exact. I was interested, but not worried, because while I was living abroad I didn’t need it. Furthermore, I had a health insurance plan that covered me wherever I lived in the world. When I returned to the U.S. this past July, I was faced with buying an individual health insurance plan, which was something I’d never done (all my previous work experience in the U.S. gave me insurance as part of a group plan).

In August, I bought a policy with a carrier and used an agent.

As this is Open Enrollment season and I just purchased my first policy in the post-ACA world, I thought it would be a apt to talk a bit about the U.S. healthcare system and how I think insurtech can help. I will focus on three areas.

First is my experience with Open Enrollment this year (to, I hope, help some who are going through the same experience right now!). Second is areas that need to be considered when looking at U.S. health insurance. Third is a summary and ideas for insurtech startups.

Healthcare, especially U.S. healthcare, is very, very complex.  Hence, I will only dive into a few areas, and as usual, my recommendations at the end will be fundamental and principle-based.

While there are a lot of politics surrounding U.S. healthcare, I will endeavor to not touch on the political aspects (though through the reading you should understand my opinions on the current state of affairs).

Open Enrollment – How Open Is It?  

As of the writing of this article, I am in the final steps of selecting my plan for 2018.  If you are currently going through the Open Enrollment process yourself, I have included some links at the end of the article that are some great guides on the overall process (including one from Oscar for “solopreneurs”).

What follows, is my experience of preparing for Open Enrollment.

A few weeks ago, I received this in the mail:

And about a day later, an email from my agent that said this:

Well, neither one of these were very encouraging.

I started with the Covered CA website and PolicyGenius to do my search to see what carriers/plans were available.

As I went through both sites, I realized that I was going through a modified needs analysis (these questions were a combination of what I went through on both sites):

  1. How much am I willing to spend a month?
  2. How much of a deductible am I willing to have? (These two questions were followed by a lot of math playing between the variables of 1 and 2 on different scenarios.)
  3. Do I want to be able to book my own specialist, or do I care if I have a referral. Plus, do I want to have the ability to go out of network or not? (HMO or PPO?)
  4. Do I have any doctors whom I need to keep in my network? By the same token, which hospitals/doctors do I want in my network?

Regardless of the answers to 1, 2,  and 4, number 3 was the key: Do I want an HMO or PPO? Because I wanted a PPO, I had a whopping TWO carriers available to me.

See also: High-Performance Healthcare Solutions  

In addition to this, I think it’s worth it to mention that (I think) the US is the only developed country in the world that has a 2 month period of time in which one can purchase a health Insurance plan.

So much for ‘Open’ Enrollment…

As I was going through this process, I realized some of the biggest challenges with this whole thing

Some of the points that I mention below may seem like old news to many that have been dealing with US health Insurance since ACA came into effect.  Though, since this is my first time going through it, that is the case.

Hence, I will share what I think is wrong with US health Insurance and subsequently, how Insurtech may be able to help.   As mentioned earlier, this is not meant to be a political stance and I will focus on the fundamentals of Insurance as I go through this.

These are the a few key things wrong with the the current US health Insurance:

  1. It’s mandatory (if you’re not covered by a group plan)
  2. If one buys an individual plan – they may not choose the specific coverage that’s right for them (other than premium and deductible)
  3. There is no underwriting for it (it’s all guaranteed issuance)

While these things aren’t likely to change, it’s important to understand why these three pillars are here, because there are some guiding principles here which are meant to help individuals; namely 1) making it more affordable and 2) making it more accessible. There still may be some opportunities to shape US health Insurance within the current confines of the regulation, which will have to be adhered to as long as the current regulation is in form.

Aside from cost and access, what else needs to be looked at?

Some of the key areas to look at when it comes to health care are:

  1. Participants/Users – how to interact with them?
  2. Provider coverage – which doctors/hospitals will be ‘in network’/accessible to participants?
  3. Claims process – how can this be made easier?
  4. Treatment and monitoring – in addition to 2&3, how will ongoing monitoring be done?

This relates back to the triangle I had a few weeks ago and how all 3 parties needs need to be looked at when looking at the overall Insurance value chain (regardless of line of business):

Before I go into the summary, a quick note on Oscar.

I took a serious look at Oscar a consideration for my health Insurance.

Not only did I read through their policy and network coverages (as they were cheaper than every other network out there), but I did all the research on Oscar that I would do for any other start-up I would consider working with for my work outside of Daily Fintech.

I started with the Coverager Companies tab (especially the News tab, where I like to see to see their past reporting of the company which usually outlines the good, bad and ugly of the company itself).  I also read the Oscar Health Strategy teardown from CB Insights.  I read consumer reviews and even asked my doctors and their receptionists about dealing with Oscar.  I did not do this much research for any other company I was considering (even though there were only 2 PPO providers from my initial search, I still took a quick look at all 6 providers in California…).

Ultimately, I think they are really on to something and I salute them for going after such a big and complex area (both in terms of product line and geographic area of that line!).  I would encourage everyone to read the teardown above to see what some of their strategies are.  Tackling US health Insurance is no easy feat, and they did take a long term view as described below:

While I do like them and some of the things they are doing, the reviews are not up to scratch yet.  My guess is that the long term view somewhat backfired on them, as customer expectation for a product that is so highly despised by many would have to have a real good experience very early on.

I have had real good experience with my current carrier and they are the most well known/biggest in my state.  As such, I’ll likely need to stick with them.  Health Insurance is too important to try something new on in my opinion.

I do think Oscar is very well positioned for the future, and they have outlined their strategy clearly above.  Building of an Insurance company takes time.  Health is a whole other animal.  Health in the US…well, that’s just going right for the gullet.  But, if done right, it can be a big prize (not only monetarily, but also for the sanity and health of US citizens!).  I’ll definitely be keeping en encouraging watchful eye on them.

Summary: It’s Complicated…

As I was preparing for this article, I read a few posts on Daily Fintech last year from Amy Radin, which I encourage you to read in conjunction with this post.  I have included them at the end for easy reference.

In her first post, she mentions four lenses to look at when it comes to US health Insurance: ‘the health of the American people, marketplace trends, the role of regulation, and the players’.

In her second post, she mentions that ‘Incumbent health insurers are pursuing legacy tactics to compete in the ACA world: M&A…; increasing premiums …; and reevaluating participation in the public exchanges…

As well as ‘the root of user pain points can influence how plans are selected and health care is consumed’:

# 1 People don’t see value because they don’t understand what they are buying.

# 2 People are being held accountable for health decisions that they are not equipped to handle.

# 3 People don’t always make rational decisions.

Fast forwarding 15 months since her last posts, other than some slight changes announced earlier this year and the recent subsidy cuts, not much has changed in terms of health of Americans, incumbent tactics and pain points for users.

See also: Healthcare: Need for Transparency  

Currently, CVS and Aetna are working on a merger.  It is rumored that Amazon is trying to expand into pharmaceutical sales as well (not to mention it’s other Insurance aspirations).  It’s also no secret that Apple has been preparing itself for a run at health care too.  Are all of these in the name of helping out the customer or just trying to get a slice of a pie that is so huge that everyone in the tech industry can taste it?

Recommendations for Insurtechs

Given that current regulation is both stringent and has an unknown future, it can be challenging for Insurtech start-ups to know where to start.  However, here are a few areas where I think can help the US health Insurance value chain, irrespective of regulation:

  • Education – I know this seems like something basic, but shopping for health Insurance was a nightmare.  Policy Genius was good, but it didn’t have it all.  Also, since health Insurance is so complex, there needs to be something that makes it really easy for people to understand.  Aside from how the subsidies work, which can be a challenge in it of itself, the specific clauses, terms and coverages for health Insurance is really complex and the majority of the population would likely not understand it.
  • Blockchain – With such a wide variety of illnesses, coverages and benefits, blockchain make a ton of sense for health care.
  • P2P – I wrote a couple weeks ago that I didn’t think P2P could be useful for health Insurance.  As I wrote this article, I do see some benefits, especially with a model like Inspeer, may be able to help.
  • Ecosystems – I’ve been reading more about ecosystems lately as it relates to Insurance/Insurtech, specifically with some of the things being some in China. When it comes to health, look at Ping An and Good Doctor (see below for infographic too). Talk about user experience.  The value proposition (image) below says it all..the more this can be integrated for the user, the better.  Though it doesn’t come without it’s challenges:
    1. Wearables – how much will people trust Insurance companies with all of their ongoing health information?  This is a big debate when it comes to information asymmetry.  Those that are healthy and live healthy lifestyles will be happy to, and others, may not be.
    2. Integration with hospitals/doctors – This will enhance the customer experience greatly, both for ongoing monitoring of the health from their doctors as well as with the claims process.  I recently had a few check ups at various doctors, having to fill out loads of paperwork that asked the same questions, bringing my images with me wherever I went, and having to re-explain my history over and again was a bit cumbersome.  It would be nice if the paperwork process was easier, if all doctors in my network had all the information on me (not just the ones in the same hospital) and the claim processed could be seamless after treatment received.  Integrating all of this is not easy when the infrastructure is not there and legacy systems exist for all parties.

I know the motto of many entrepreneurs/founders out there revolves around solving challenging problems, so, despite my feelings at the moment about US health Insurance, I am confident about the future of it!!

This article was originally published on Daily Fintech.

What to Know About ACA Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for individual health insurance policies is coming up. It is important to be aware of significant changes that will affect those applying for new coverage or changing coverage. Being familiar with these changes will help you successfully keep your health insurance and enroll. Since January, there have been multiple attempts to formally repeal the Affordable Care Act, which all ultimately failed in the Senate. Unfortunately, there is a clear trend that steps are being taken to weaken the ACA.

The Affordable Care Act remains in place.

Any claims that the ACA or Obamacare are failing or dead are not true. Due to the hard work of multiple state insurance commissioners, as 2018 Obamacare deadline nears, U.S. states believe every county is covered.

There is no further pretense: It is Trump vs. the Affordable Care Act. Failing to work with Congress, Trump has through executive actions and the announcement to terminate the payment of cost-sharing subsidies, thrown the entire health insurance ecosystem into greater chaos. The termination of the cost-sharing subsidies is a short-term issue while the executive actions are slightly longer-term.

These actions will cause further instability in the health insurance marketplace as it is almost certain that fewer people will enroll in health insurance plans this year. The reduction will mostly come from younger, healthier people, which will lead to a pool of people who have health issues and will have higher claims. Higher claims mean higher premiums. And higher premiums will lead to fewer enrollees leading to a tougher, but not failing market.

Michael Che of Saturday Live summed it up accurately with the comparison of Trump tweeting: “The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Dems should call me to fix” to Godzilla tweeting: “Tokyo is totally imploding right now. I alone can solve!”

Here’s what you need to know about the termination of the cost-sharing subsidies:

Insurance companies must continue to offer policies with subsidized premiums to those who qualify (58% of the 11.1 million Americans enrolled in ACA plans). The ACA requires insurers to charge lower out-of-pocket costs to low-income consumers, and the CSR payments compensate insurance companies for doing so. So, CSR payments are not a bail-out for insurance companies. And insurance companies are suing the government to make these legally obligated payments.

Insurers have already filed their premium rates for 2018. Insurance companies can still attempt to raise rates or even pull out of some markets. The loss of the CSRs is a huge cost for any insurance company that didn’t price in the possibility of the CSRs being eliminated. However, given that Trump has consistently threatened to not make the CSR payments, insurance companies have for the most part taken this into account; in other words, they were not surprised. Insurance companies can terminate their contact with the federal exchange if cost-sharing reductions are terminated. However, they are still subject to state laws on withdrawing from the marketplace. They can only terminate their exchange enrollees if they fail to pay their premiums, which many people would likely do if an insurance company left the exchange and they no longer received the advance premium tax credit (APTC).

A number of states allowed insurance companies to file dual rates, with one set assuming CSRs and the other set assuming no CSRs. Some states had already ordered insurance companies to add a surcharge to cover the potential loss of CSRs. For example, California required an additional 12.4% surcharge on silver plans. To find out how your state is allowing insurance companies to deal with the uncertainty over cost sharing reductions, check out this compilation of data.

In fact, Trump’s action would lead to an increase in enrollments in ACA plans in many states, including California, where about 90% of enrollees pay subsidized premiums. Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, calculated in January that the reduction in net, or after-subsidy, premiums in gold, platinum and bronze plans resulting from the higher subsidies would lead to an enrollment increase of 20,000 people, or 1.4%, in subsidized plans. That’s good. What’s not so good is that the change would batter the unsubsidized population — those with income higher than 400% of the poverty level.

Bottom line, insurance companies will get less money from the government for helping low-income people with out-of-pocket costs on silver plans, causing silver plan premiums to increase to compensate. That will then trigger the federal government to increase all APTC-based subsidies to make sure people can still afford insurance. And to take advantage of the ATPC and avoid the higher-priced silver plans, people will move to bronze, gold and platinum plans. In fact, Trump’s health subsidy shutdown could lead to free insurance.

See also: How to Save Individual ACA Market  

According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office released in August, “The Effects of Terminating Payments for Cost-Sharing Reductions,” this will result in about 1 million fewer people covered in 2018. However, by 2020, the effect on coverage would stem primarily from the increases in premium tax credits, which would make purchasing non-group insurance more attractive for some people. As a result, a larger number of people would purchase insurance through the marketplaces, and a smaller number of people would purchase employment-based health insurance. The CBO report does not take into account the other changes made by Trump and his administration.

Here’s what you need to know about open enrollment:

Increased tax credits for those who qualify (84% of enrolled): The ACA includes an additional subsidy that is designed to reduce the cost of premiums, ensuring that family budgets are largely unaffected — it’s called the Advance Premium Tax Credit. CSR payments are applied only to silver plans. Insurance companies will add a premium surcharge, then, to the silver plans. Silver plans are the basis for the amount of the APTC that consumers receive. So, for most consumers, an increase in the silver premium will be offset by an increase in the APTC. Because of the application of the CSR linked premium surcharge to silver-tier plans, nearly four of five consumers will actually see their premiums remain the same or decrease as the amount of premium assistance they receive will rise.

To qualify for the APTC, your income must be between 133% and 400% of the federal poverty level. The premium increase impact will be heaviest on those who do not qualify for Advanced Premium Tax Credits. Because more people qualify for APTCs, the net cost to the federal government will actually rise. Find out if you qualify for the APTC here.

If you are in one of 19 states that did not expand Medicare, your premiums will be higher because there will be a larger number of enrolled who qualified for the CSRs. This will be offset by higher Advanced Premium Tax Credits.

Increased premiums for those in silver plans in 2018: Silver plans are the only plans that qualify for cost-sharing subsidies. Without the CSRs, silver plans may no longer be the best choice for many people.

The individual mandate remains in place, and there is a minimum penalty ($695 for adults and of $347.60 for children under age 18) for not having health insurance. The maximum tax penalty is $2,085 per household. The IRS has announced that it will not accept a return that does not have the health coverage question completed.

There will be a shorter open-enrollment period of six weeks, rather than the 12 weeks in previous years. Open enrollment starts on November 2017 and ends on December 15, 2017. It is important to act quickly and to be aware of this much-earlier deadline. Open enrollment is the only time when you are able to change to a completely new plan on the public marketplace or switch cover tiers, with changes taking effect on January 1. There are special enrollment periods for those who meet certain criteria, such as losing group health insurance coverage.

Certain state exchanges have longer open enrollment periods:

  • California: runs through January 15, 2018
  • Colorado: runs through January 12, 2018
  • District of Columbia: runs through January 31, 2018
  • Massachusetts: runs through January 23, 2018
  • Minnesota: runs through January 14, 2018
  • Rhode Island: runs through December 31, 2018
  • Washington: runs through January 15, 2018

Note: Insurance companies were in favor of this because the hope is it will encourage healthier people to enter the risk pool. This was also a recommendation in my Health Insurance Roadmap in conjunction with limiting special enrollment periods, which encourages people to keep their policies throughout the year (and keep their paying premiums) rather than hopping in and out of the risk pool.

Reduced access to healthcare.gov: HHS has announced it will shut down the federal exchange site for 12 hours for all but one Sunday during the open-enrollment season (December 10) as well as on the first day of open enrollment (November 1). More than 36 states use healthcare.gov for their marketplace.

  • HHS has reconfigured its website to make enrollment information harder to access.
  • This limited access could have a secondary impact because of additional website outages with greater numbers of people using the site at one time, compounded by the shorter enrollment period.
  • Website key point: More than 12 million people enrolled on the state and federal marketplaces for 2017 coverage — with nine million of those enrollments being on the federal exchange.

Marketplace outreach funds have been significantly reduced by 90% (from $100 million to 10 million). Budgets have been restricted to mostly being online — so no television, radio or print ads.

So don’t wait for any advertising for healthcare.gov .

  • Earlier this year, the administration pulled paid advertising for sign-ups on HealthCare.gov.
  • HHS has, instead, produced videos designed to undermine public support for “Obamacare” with funds that were intended to help promote enrollment in the ACA. These “testimonial videos” feature individuals claiming to have been harmed by the ACA.
  • These actions have prompted an inquiry by a federal inspector general into these decisions and regarding whether they have had a negative impact on sign-ups.

Less help with open enrollment, cuts of 90% to navigators — this reduces the ability to get advice to review different plans. For the most recent open enrollment period at the end of 2016, navigators received over $62.5 million in federal grants while enrolling 81,426 individuals for an approximate cost per enrollee of $768. For this open enrollment period, CMS plans to spend $10 million on education activities. (Source: CMS Policies Related to the Navigator Program and Enrollment Education for the Upcoming Enrollment Period.)

Funding for in-person outreach has also been cut in half, from $62.5 million to $36 million. The Trump administration has ended contracts with firms that have provided in-person assistance to states using healthcare.gov.

Regional representatives from the HHS will not be participating in open enrollment events in states and with health advocacy groups as it had done in the past so to reach uninsured populations by helping with sign-ups in terms of explaining, enrolling and shopping. Here’s what HHS press secretary Caitlin Oakley had to say last month: “Marketplace enrollment events are organized and implemented by outside groups with their own agendas, not HHS. These events may continue regardless of HHS participation.” She went on to say, “As Obamacare continues to collapse, HHS is carefully evaluating how we can best serve the American people who continue to be harmed by Obamacare’s failures.”

Navigators from multiple states are reporting issues with the online training certification videos.

See also: 10 Ideas That Could Fix Healthcare  

According to Sheila Quenga, director of the Palmetto Project, software programs are occurring more frequently than in the past, and it can take weeks before CMS resolves an issue. This is the Latest Snag In ACA Sign-Ups: Those Who Guide Consumers Are Hitting Roadblocks.

What to consider when reviewing your options:

  • If you are getting a subsidy, it is recommended that you review alternatives on healthcare.gov or your state health insurance exchange.
  • Find out if you qualify for the APTC here.
  • Review the total costs of premiums and deductibles and estimate co-payments and coinsurance.
  • Make sure the plan covers your medical providers and medications.
  • Use the optimal insurance deductible calculator to find the deductible that provides the most value to you.

Here are some resources to help you with open enrollment:

  • healthcare.gov — Check it out before open enrollment to review your options so you can be prepared.
  • State insurance departments. Find a link your state insurance department here.
  • Private groups, consumer advocacy groups and insurance companies. For example, a new campaign, “Get America Covered,” is going to run digital advertising and will partner with employers, community organizations and other entities. Its staff and co-chairs draw heavily from people who worked on ACA enrollment in the Obama administration’s HHS. The campaign draws on a mix of health-policy wonks, celebrities and political figures: Democratic activist Van Jones, actress Alyssa Milano, actor Bradley Whitford, ousted health insurance CEO Mario Molina and former Obama health care official Andy Slavitt. Other advocacy groups include Out2Enroll, Young Invincibles, Community Catalyst and the Get Covered Coalition. Unfortunately, HHS is the only entity that has access to records of who’s insured, so the lack of data will lessen the impact.
  • PolicyGenius has put together the comprehensive “Your state-by-state guide to the 2018 health insurance open enrollment period.”

If you have group health insurance through your employer, be aware of your open enrollment period and options.

What’s next?

The best outcome is that this might finally spur a true bipartisan effort. Trump’s actions can be remedied by Congress acting to guarantee funding the cost-sharing subsidies. And while a bipartisan deal, the “Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act,” has been reached by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, President Trump has repeatedly switched from supporting it to not supporting it. The other question is whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will do the right thing and put this deal up for a Senate vote, with the speculation being that he won’t. Currently, the bill has 22 additional co-sponsors (11 Republicans and 11 Democrats), so it seems feasible that it could actually pass in the Senate.

Then the question becomes getting the bill through the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan has come out against it and may not let it be put to a vote. House members have already approved an Affordable Care Act change bill, H.R. 1628, that would continue funding for the cost-sharing reduction subsidy program for two years. The other likely scenario is that with budget talks coming up, an Obamacare fix could end up in year-end package. Either way, this would not remedy any cost-sharing subsidies not paid and may come too late for insurance companies to change their 2018 premiums.

So, please start early and be prepared. As you should always do with any type of insurance, it’s important to understand what your health insurance options are and obtain coverage accordingly. To get the best plan at the optimal price, shop and compare the different tiers.

The bottom line to get the best plan at the best price: shop and compare all plans, even if you currently have a policy.

3 Tips for Improving Healthcare Literacy

Today, innovative cost-containment solutions are helping employers “curb” the increasing cost of healthcare.  However, these solutions are only as good as the education tied to them.  A solution without effective education is useless and can even be costly.

Employee education has been a sticking point in the employee benefits world.  Many employers haven’t done a good job educating employees and have thus missed the boat on containing costs. According to a 2003 assessment (I know, old!) by the U.S. Department of Education, only 12% of U.S. adults have a proficient level of healthcare literacy. That is scary.

The days of educating the workforce about what they have, how much it costs and how to sign up are long gone. Stop repeating the same message year after year. The focus of your education has to be around improving the healthcare literacy of your workforce.

The good news is that there are consultants around the country creating some amazing messages. Folks like Jim Millaway, Gary Becker and Al Lewis are innovating the way benefit education is provided, helping employers reduce the cost of health insurance.

With that, let’s look at three employee education tips that can help you contain costs.

See Also: On Air Traffic Control and Health Costs

  1. Effective Education Is a Year-long Process

If your education strategy consists of nothing more than the annual open enrollment meeting, we need to talk and please keep reading! By the time your employees walk out of the meeting, they will forget 90% of what they heard; especially how to use a new cost-containment tool effectively. To ensure the new solution is a success, you have to keep the message in front of your employees all year long.

  1. Make Sure Your Message Helps You Accomplish Your Goal

Remember, your goal is to “curb” or even reduce the cost of your health insurance, so strategic education has to be a part of your long-term plan. Do not rely on the communication provided by carriers and vendors, as they are often too vague and provide information most of your employees already know (e.g. your smokers already know they should quit as their doctor has been telling them for years). To achieve your goal, you need to make sure your education aligns with the objective, improving health literacy. Focus on the kind of education that will help your employees help your medical plan save money. Strategic education is the wave of the future. Innovative solutions like Quizzify are giving employees the opportunity to become stewards of their own healthcare journey, helping both their checkbook and the bottom line of their employer.

  1. Your Message Has to Be Clear and To-the-Point

Trying to find the right avenue for educating the workforce is not easy. However, using newsletters and brochures to communicate your new cost-containment solution will not work because your employees will not read them. One way to get your message across effectively is through video. Videos only require employees to hit “play” and are short and to-the-point, and can be customized to convey the message you want.

Employees like the videos because little time and effort is wasted in watching and the employer is able to craft the message (with help) to best meet its objective. A video campaign can be a very effective way of improving the health literacy of your workforce through short, focused messages.

Crafting the right educational message is hard work and requires time and effort. But if it is done well, you will not only be happy about your new cost-containment solution, you will create a highly educated and empowered workforce that will have a positive impact on your bottom line.