With key provisions of the Affordable Care Act taking effect soon, employers have been tasked with understanding health reform, deciding their health benefits strategy, implementing any changes, and communicating information to employees. The information you'll need to communicate to employees may vary by the size of your organization and what type of health benefits you offer employees, if any. Once you've determined what needs to be communicated, it's now time to decide how to communicate this to employees.
Here are 5 ideas on ways to communicate your organization's health reform strategy to employees.
Share the "what" and "why" of your health reform strategy. If you're changing your organization's health benefits approach for 2014 (which is very common among small and medium businesses, and non-profits), communicate both the "what" and the "why" to employees earlier than later. Help employees understand what impact the Affordable Care Act has on the plans you offer, including who is eligible for coverage and which employees may need to explore the public exchanges and related health insurance tax subsidies. Tailor what you communicate to your health benefits strategy for 2014 and emphasize the benefits and opportunities for employees. In addition to this education, all employers are required to provide a notice about new coverage options with the health insurance exchanges, due by October 1. (Read more about the ACA Exchange Notice here.)
Create a plan for distributing resources on basic health care information. Many employers are shifting how they offer benefits because of new opportunities with the Affordable Care Act. For most, this is a very positive change. And, in many cases it is a shift toward consumer-driven health care or defined contribution. Both of these models require employees to take more control of their health care. Employees may need resources and education about basic health care terms, and basic health care reform information. Create a plan and gather resources for employees. Who can they call with questions? How can your health insurance agent or benefits provider help? What resources can we provide employees? A packet of information, one-on-one meetings, and/or an all-employee meeting can help facilitate this exchange of information and provide a centralized time to answer questions or concerns.
Refer questions about the individual health insurance exchanges or Medicaid eligibility to the exchanges. As part of the new health insurance exchanges, each state is required to provide educational resources and "navigators" to help employees understand the new coverage options and the health insurance subsidies. Employers should understand the basics of how the health insurance exchanges work, but don't need to keep up with all the complexities of what each exchange offers and which states are offering expanded Medicaid coverage. Provide employees with information to your state's exchange website (look it up here). Also, health insurance agents and brokers can register with the state health insurance exchange and are a helpful resource for employees in navigating coverage options, subsidies, and Medicaid eligibility.
Leverage the attention on health care reform and the exchanges to educate employees on the benefits of health reform. Whether you love health reform or hate it (or lie somewhere in between), some of key provisions truly do benefit employees. These include guaranteed-issue policies on the individual health insurance market, health insurance subsidies to lower the cost of individual health insurance purchased on the new public health insurance exchanges, and all plans including 10 essential health benefits.
Reinforce the value of your health plans and the overall value of working for your organization. Regardless of the type of health benefits you are providing to employees, you likely care about the health of your employees and value offering employees health benefits. Use your communication about health reform as an opportunity to reinforce this value to employees.
What are your tips for communicating an organization's health reform strategy to employees? What has been effective for you? Leave us your tips or questions in the comments below.
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