What your employees need to know when the plan year starts

Employee asks questions about benefits Employee asks questions about benefits Employee asks questions about benefits Employee asks questions about benefits

Key takeaways

Communicate answers to these questions and more to help employees make the most of their benefits this year.

For most employers, annual enrollment is in the rear-view mirror. But now that your employees have enrolled, there are certain things they’ll need to keep in mind during the year to maximize their benefits.

What to do if their ID cards haven’t arrived

All too often, file feeds don’t get processed on time and ID cards get hung up in the mail…and at least one of your employees needs healthcare. What to do?

Be sure to let them know if they can go to a website to download a temporary card, or if there’s a number, they can call to verify coverage at the doctor’s office or pharmacy.

Where to find a network provider
Your employees may need to find a new doctor for several reasons—you switched carriers, and their old provider is no longer in-network, they’ve moved to a new state, or their provider is no longer practicing.

Finding a new network provider isn’t always as easy as visiting your carrier’s or local hospital’s website—too often, providers listed as accepting new patients, aren’t. It can take months to get an appointment with a new doctor.

If you provide an advocacy service, let your employees know that they can use that service to do the leg work for them. Alternatively, let them know of other options that are available while they are waiting—such as telemedicine, retail clinics (such as CVS Minute Clinics) or in-network urgent care centers.

Preventive care is free
Sometimes the prospect of meeting a high deductible can discourage employees from seeing the doctor. Be sure to remind employees that their annual checkup, routine tests, and vaccinations for themselves and covered family members are covered in full no matter when during the year, and from any in-network provider (including the aforementioned retail clinics and urgent care centers). Emphasizing the importance of regular checkups can help identify health issues before they become acute or chronic—and therefore far more expensive to treat.

Deadlines…there are deadlines!
Remind employees of important deadlines, such as the end of an FSA grace period, claims filing deadlines, the last day for submitting tobacco use attestations or biometric results for a wellness program, etc. If one or more of your plans don’t operate on a calendar year basis, remind employees when the new plan year (and new deductible) starts.

How to shop for care
Everyone knows how expensive healthcare is, but not everyone knows that their actions can make a big difference in what they pay. Whether it’s prescription drugs, outpatient tests or elective surgery, employees need to know they can be in control of what they spend. Start by educating them on the fact that there is no one price for any prescription, product, or procedure and why where you receive care makes a difference. Include concrete examples where possible—and let them know sometimes paying cash instead of using insurance can be the way to go.

Be sure to highlight the benefits of signing up for a mail-order drug program if one is available. Provide instructions (and suggested websites) on how to find out costs and compare options. If you offer a transparency service—either through an independent third party or your carrier—let employees know this resource is available. And, if you offer a rewards program (where they get an additional reward for choosing a lower-cost option), be sure to promote it.

What to do if things change
Life happens. Your employees may marry or divorce, have a baby or adopt a child, move, or lose a covered loved one. Make sure they know who to call (or what website to visit) if they experience a life change, how long after the change they must report it, what changes they can make to their benefits as a result, and when new coverage will take effect.

While employees need to know all this information, some are more time-sensitive than others. Let employees know this information as soon as possible after the first of the year (or even before the plan year starts), then send out reminders throughout the year.

Having a formal communications strategy can help make sure you’re communicating the right information at the right time through the right channels to ensure your employees are getting the message!