New World Reality of Benefits Communication

Jul 03, 2014

As the world of health insurance and employee business gets more and more complicated, benefits providers face the growing difficulty of actually explaining benefits in a way people and businesses understand. I recently addressed this issue in my article, “The New World Reality of Benefits Communication” in the May 2014 edition of Employee Benefit Plan Review.

One of the biggest challenges of modern benefits is actually having to explain them. While the ACA is mostly aimed at individuals outside the large employer marketplace, it is a fundamental game-changer for organizational group benefits, due to the many moving parts and overlapping efforts which must be communicated to very diverse populations.

This would be difficult in normal times, and these are certainly not normal times, which makes the stakes high. Organizations that get benefit communications right will have a significant competitive advantage. So here are two key points to remember:

Key point #1: People Basically Don’t Understand Insurance

It is not news that most people do not fully understand insurance, or how their health care is subsidized or paid for. They grudgingly understand deductibles and copays because that is one of the few “hands-on” parts of the benefits world that intrudes into their lives.

People often don’t understand insurance because the media does a poor job in explaining it, schools do not educate students on the subject and movies tend to treat insurance companies as the “big business villain.” The net result is a poorly informed and underinsured populace.

Key point #2: This is a complex, confusing subject that we insiders know a little too well.

Employee benefits industry professionals know our world is full of acronyms and abbreviations, i.e. ACO, PEO, ASO, SBC… the list goes on. This familiarity with code words are handy for those of us “in the club”, but contributes to an impenetrable communication barrier for many of those we serve that we must first overcome.

So what do we do? My top benefits communication “next steps” to consider are:

  • Know your audience
  • Use the right communication channel
  • Summarize the message

I want to also thank the Indiana Rural Health Business Partner Network for republishing the article in full on their site. You can read the rest of the article to learn more about my “next steps” and how employee benefits professionals can better communicate and explain the growing complexity around benefits and health insurance.