It’s Time to Start Planning How You’re Going to Help Your Employees Through Open Enrollment

Most consumers rank choosing a health plan below doing their taxes and getting a cavity filled at the dentist. Unfortunately, open enrollment periods force people to go through the process of choosing a plan. But with help from employers and administrators, the process doesn’t have to be painful. Could you be doing more now to make sure the next open enrollment period is easier for employees and HR alike?

Many people still don’t understand the differences between Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP), High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP), or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). The acronym labyrinth can be complicated and overwhelming, especially if companies haven’t done enough to explain what these plans can do for employees.

As more businesses offer HDHPs, human resource departments and companies may now require employees to actively make a decision during open enrollment regardless if they want to stay with their existing plan. Do your employees really understand the benefits and challenges with these types of plans?

Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP) and High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP)

The goal of these plans is to put people in control of their health care by pairing low premium plans with tax advantaged funding accounts like Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). It seems like a great idea in theory, but it falls flat when you realize that only 11% of people understand the four basic components of an HSA.

You don’t really need numbers to understand why consumers are confused, however. Check out the description of what an HDHP includes: “A maximum limit on the sum of the annual deductible and out-of-pocket medical expenses that an enrollee must pay for covered expenses. Out-of-pocket expenses include co-payments and other amounts, but do not include premiums.”

It’s easy to see why people are confused and may not fully understand these plans. But as we approach open enrollment, it’s critical for anyone associated with health care plans to help people make sense out of this alphabet soup of choices.

Employers are Responsible for Education

Educating your employees about their benefit information helps them to use their benefits correctly, and can save you money in the long run.

How are you educating your employees about HDHPs or HSAs? Are you using plan summary documents and enrollment forms? Do you use text on your website to explain an HSA? Because that is not enough.

Employers that want to educate consumers should focus on communication channels like email, online help, benefits portal, seminars/peer forums, chat, text, telephone, social media.

Virtual assistants that actively speak to employees directly from their computer screen, tablet or mobile device have been proven to be more effective and engaging than text, email or even video, because avatars or virtual assistants are interactive and can be there exactly at the moment of need. Gartner predicts that 50 percent of online customer self-service search activity will soon happen through a virtual assistant for many large companies.

Embrace Engagement

The healthcare industry needs to embrace engagement. This doesn’t just mean health care providers. It also means companies that are enrolling their employees in health insurance plans. With these types of plans, it’s likely that consumers will be calling their HSA administrators and HSA banks as well. Employees may never even talk to their health plan, but may spend a lot of time talking with the administrator or bank. These types of providers need to have a decision support plan in place. Understanding that you can use an avatar or virtual assistant to deflect the frequently asked questions in a more dynamic way will increase consumers’ understanding and decrease the amount of calls.

Remember, educating is not a one-time thing that only happens during the open enrollment time period. Ongoing guidance and communication has to happen the entire year. Consumers need tools that enable them to make smart health care decisions on an ongoing basis.

Want to get started on adding an intelligent assistant to your website or corporate intranet? Contact us using the form below to get started and have support in place before the open enrollment period is upon us.

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