With health reform taking full effect in 2014, most small and medium size companies will be sending a portion, or all, of its employees to the health insurance exchanges for coverage.
And it's not surprising. With the federal premium tax subsidies coming in 2014, guaranteed-issue individual health insurance plans, and the new health insurance exchanges, many companies are transitioning away from traditional group insurance (and the cost and complication that goes along with it). Other companies who have not offered health benefits in the past, will be communicating to employees about the health insurance exchanges to help employees receive access to coverage.
How can HR ensure a smooth transition? Here are six tips for HR in communicating a transition to the health insurance exchanges.
Tip #1: Provide additional information along with the required “Notice of Exchanges”
All employers are required to provide notice to employees about new coverage options with the health insurance exchanges. This notice is due October 1, 2013 and then at time of hire thereafter. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided example notices with the information employers are required to provide under the Affordable Care Act. But why stop at this model notice? Supply employees with additional information tailored to your specific health benefits offering. Tell employees why they are receiving this notice, and what to do with it.
To read more about the notice see: Employer ACA Marketplace Notice Requirements.
Tip #2: Provide context on your health benefits plan
For many small and medium size companies, offering health benefits is a significant milestone. Help employees understand the specifics of the health benefit plan you are providing them. Explain what their benefits are and how the plan is going to work with the public health insurance exchanges and their individual health insurance plans (that they may already have). When employees understand the plan, and why the company is offering health benefits in this way, employees will be happier and it will contribute to the company's overall retention goals.
Tip #3: Communicate effectively to different types of employees
Will some of your employees benefit differently from health reform and the health insurance exchanges? For example, do you offer a different level of health benefits to full time vs. part time employees? Will certain groups of employees be eligible (based on income) for the premium tax subsidies, or Medicaid? If so, consider tailoring your health reform and health insurance exchange information differently to these different types of employees.
Tip #4: Clearly announce required actions and deadlines
All of this new information can be overwhelming and confusing for employees. Clearly define a timeline for them. This will not only keep them on track, but it will encourage a step-by-step method for them to get enrolled in a plan, and make it seem a easier and more manageable.
Tip #5: Welcome questions and provide additional assistance
Determine who will be designated to be the benefits ‘guru’ for questions and additional assistance. Plan out answers to questions you think your employees might have, and keep additional resources ready. No matter how well you explain everything, there are always going to be particular situations that are going to come up, and your employees are going to need help. Letting them know that there is someone who is constantly there to help them get set up, will make the transition easier, and most likely faster, with less mistakes.
Tip #6: Make sure leadership is on-board
Engage your company's leadership about the health benefits plan and strategy. While it's likely these leadership staff contributed to the decision, a refresher with these key managers can help the company maintain overall support and morale. The more cheerleaders you have for your health benefits approach, the more efficiently you will be able to implement it and more resources you will have for your employees.
What are your tips for ensuring a smooth transition to the health insurance exchanges, or a new health benefits strategy in general? Leave a comment below.