Communications a catalyst for new plans
Your employees are ready to use their elected plans. Whether they’ve selected entirely new plan options or just rolled over their previous elections, it’s important to remind them of key plan provisions that directly affect their health—and their wallets.
All about timing
With many plans, deductibles and out-of-pocket limits reset with the new plan year, which means employees will initially be paying more out of pocket. This can impact employee medical decisions and financial health, particularly if they're planning operations or other procedures during the year or have higher-cost or chronic healthcare needs. In fact, 38% of Americans say they or a family member put off medical care last year due to cost.
Now is the time to remind employees that preventive care services are free--and can help identify health issues early, before they become acute or chronic (and therefore more costly). For those concerned about post-checkup costs, remind employees that healthcare FSAs, Health Savings Accounts, and Health Reimbursement Arrangements—if they participate— may help cover costs before the deductible is met. Even better, employees who contribute to a healthcare FSA have immediate access to the full amount they’ve committed to contribute—even though contributions have just begun.
There are important deadlines employees need to be aware of as well. If your healthcare FSA has a grace period, it will run out on March 31; it's important to use up the prior year's funds before they are lost for good. Remind employees that their open enrollment elections can only be changed if they have a qualified change of status such as a marriage, divorce, addition or loss of a dependent, etc. Employees should report any such changes as soon as possible, so they have the coverage they need.
Shopping for care
Until employees meet their deductibles, they are particularly sensitive to costs—making this the perfect time to educate them on how and why to shop for care.
Whether it's detailed tutorials, listings of cost-comparison websites and tools, or the new price transparency tools required by the government, employees need to know what resources are at their fingertips. Shopping around and comparing prices can result in substantial savings, whether for one-time expenses or recurring charges (such as prescriptions or monthly testing)—but until employees get in the habit, employers need to make it as easy as possible to shop!
Programs that support employees
Finally, promote the programs you've implemented to support employees as they seek care. Whether it's a benefits advocacy service that helps employees shop and navigate the healthcare system, ancillary programs targeted to specific health concerns, such as fertility, diabetes management, gastrointestinal issues, and the like, or voluntary coverages employees may have forgotten they elected, these programs are only valuable if employees know about them and use them.
A new plan year can be financially stressful. Reminding employees of the tools at their disposal and how to use them can positively impact their wallets and your healthcare expenses for the rest of the year.