3 Ways to Empower Your Employees to Take the Reins on Their Health Benefits

3 Ways to Empower Your Employees to Take the Reins on Their Health Benefits

Fact: Fifty-five percent of small firms and 99% of large firms offer health benefits to at least some of their workers, with an overall offer rate of 56%.

Employer-sponsored health insurance covers more than 183,000,000, or roughly 49 percent, of Americans. The health plans they offer are designed to attract new employees and, once hired, to keep employees healthy, productive, and financially whole.

While some employees are keenly aware of what’s in their employer’s health package and know how to optimize these benefits, the majority either aren’t aware of what’s included or don’t understand how to put their health benefits to work for them.

With such a big investment in supporting your employees’ health and wealth, empowering your employees to make the best of this valuable asset makes sense and cents!

Following are three ways to equip your employees to take charge and manage the health benefits you provide.

1. Educate Employees on Their Health Offerings Beginning with Plan Selection and Enrollment

Fact: One out of every three employees doesn’t understand their health care benefits.

It’s not for lack of aptitude or attitude that employees struggle to comprehend which health plan they should enroll in, let alone how to use the benefits of the plan they do enroll in. (Some employees will have to discern if a state- or government-sponsored plan makes the most sense… but that’s a challenge for a future article!)

Making sense of health benefits is an uphill battle for employees as they navigate the maze of health care terminology when selecting a plan that will impact both their financial and health situation. A lack of understanding can result in delaying or avoiding necessary care, spending more money than necessary for out-of-network services, or missing out on opportunities to leverage pre-tax health accounts or wellness benefits and rewards.

To get your employees off to a good start, select an enrollment platform that offers the tech, tools, and human touch to assess employees’ – and their family members and/or dependents – health and financial needs and risks. Employees will benefit from digital tools to calculate, FAQs to explain, and most importantly, the use of everyday language to communicate and inform.

The enrollment platform should (like W3ll) be able to support your employees through the entire shopping and enrollment process. It should be intuitive, easy-to-use, and include click-to-chat and call-in options to speak with licensed brokers who can answer questions on the spot or triage employees to appropriate resources.

By giving your employees the knowledge required to make more informed decisions at the time of enrollment, you empower them to engage in their health opportunities and better manage their health dollars.

2. Engage Employees in Working Towards a Wellness Goal that Fits Their Lifestyle

Fact: Researchers found that employees who were high-engaged in a workplace wellness program reported 55 percent fewer unhealthy days, had an average of 35 percent fewer emergency room visits, had 30 percent fewer hospital admissions, and paid an average of $116 less in healthcare than employees who were low-engaged.

Nearly every employer offers some form of wellness program. In 2019 (pre COVID-19), 84% of large (200+ employees) employers implemented workplace benefits for employees to adopt lifestyle or behavioral changes that would result in improved health and (tangentially) lower health care costs. But offering a program is no guarantee that employees will want to use it.

If you’re not seeing the desired results you’d hoped for, ramp up the employee wellness engagement levels by beefing up both the options and the optics of your program. Here are a few suggestions to fire up your workforce to get a move on:

Broaden the Types of Wellness Activities Beyond Biometric Screenings and Health Questionnaires

The pandemic shutdown forced many employees into a remote (often their home) workspace where they found opportunity to do more physical activities, such as home projects, gardening, and getting outside for a walk or bike ride, and mental activities such as yoga, medication, and other mindful timeouts. Consider including these types of healthy activities into your wellness program.

Broaden the Time for Conducting and Completing the Activities

Working remotely afforded employees a whole new dimension on how to organize their workday and their work/life balance. To break up the monotony of working in a spare bedroom, a corner of the basement, or at the kitchen table, employees ventured out for a brief walk, took time to run an errand, or stopped work activity to fix a healthy meal for kids learning online. Employees soon learned the benefits of breaking up their day with “life” and catching up on “work” before or after standard work hours. Capitalize on this new found and healthy work/life balance to encourage employees to engage in better health behaviors.

Reward Employees for Taking the Reins on Their Health

Fact: Employers who use incentives had a median employee participation rate of 40 percent in their workplace wellness program, compared to a 20 percent median employee participation rate for employers who did not use monetary or nonmonetary incentives.

In this same study, employers that used penalties or surcharges for not participating boosted their median employee participation rates to 73 percent!

What this tells employers is that incentives drive participation in workplace wellness programs and that a stick approach is almost twice as effective as a carrot in motivating employees to engage and accomplish workplace wellness goals.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to rewarding employees for achieving success in improving their health. Financial incentives may include cash, cash equivalents (e.g., discounted gym memberships), and novelty items (e.g., t-shirts or gift cards)

But be sure to stay within the box when it comes to the value of the incentives you can offer. The law limits financial incentives to no more than 30 percent of the cost of health coverage, but the incentive can climb as high as 50 percent of the total cost of coverage to the extent that the additional 20 percent is in connection with a program designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use. The law calls these financial incentives “rewards,” but the law’s definition of “reward” is a bit misleading. The law defines “reward” as including both obtaining a reward and imposing a penalty.

Know the laws around what type of incentives are allowed, amounts allowable, and any requirements related to employees with special needs, disabilities or other situations that may impede their ability to participate (and earn or be penalized) in your health incentive programs. Rules and regulations can vary amongst the many federal and state governing bodies (i.e. ADA, ERISA, DHS, HIPAA, ACA) so be sure to assess your incentive programs for compliance on a regular basis.

For more ideas on supporting employees during these uncertain times check out the following blogs look towards W3ll! In addition to supporting the latest healthcare trends that can be of benefit to your employees, W3ll provides insight on how to support during the shifting workplace dynamic.

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