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Employers Slow to Communicate Benefits Changes
The good news: proactive employers can increase employees' satisfaction with their benefits

By Stephen Miller, CEBS  9/9/2013

A large number of American workers remain unaware of, confused about and unprepared for looming changes to their benefits coverage, according to the 2013 Open Enrollment Survey of 2,001 U.S. consumers, conducted in August 2013 for Aflac, a provider of voluntary insurance benefits.

In the survey, 69 percent of workers said their employer hadn’t communicated changes that will be made to their benefits package due to health care reform, despite an Oct. 1 deadline for employers to notify their employees of their coverage options under the new health care insurance exchanges, or “marketplaces” (see the SHRM Online article “DOL Issues Model Exchange and COBRA Election Notices”).

The survey also revealed that:

  • 74 percent of workers sometimes or never understand everything that is covered by their insurance policy.

  • Nearly four in 10 (37 percent) think it will be more difficult to understand everything in their health care policy after it incorporates the required health care reform changes.

  • Nearly a third of employees (28 percent) are confused, worried or simply unsure about the changes their employer is making to their health care coverage or benefits options due to health care reform.

“The good news is there is an opportunity for employers who take a proactive role in helping employees effectively maneuver this new benefits landscape to make significant gains in worker satisfaction and retention levels,” Aflac Executive Vice President Michael Zuna said in a news release.

Closing Communication Gaps

Along with encouraging employees to do their homework, organizations should take advantage of available resources to help workers navigate their benefit options, including onsite visits from an insurance agent or broker, Zuna advised. Information sessions enable employees to ask questions and receive relevant information to guide them to the best decisions for themselves and their families, and provide feedback to companies that can help them decide on benefits changes.

Other education steps Zuna recommends that employers take include:

  • Mailing benefits materials to employees at home so they can discuss their options with their family members.

  • Hosting a town hall meeting with a benefits advisor, who can discuss changes and answer questions that apply to the group.

  • Encouraging one-on-one meetings with employees who have more specific questions.

  • Conducting educational webinars to reach all employees, regardless of their location.

  • Posting frequently asked questions and answers online and in high-traffic areas such as cafeterias, employee break rooms and outside of restrooms.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related SHRM Articles:

Communicating About Health Care Changes, SHRM Online Benefits, August 2013

On Notice: Upcoming Affordable Care Act Notice Requirements, SHRM Online Legal Issues, August 2013

For Open Enrollment, Remember New Templates for SBCs, SHRM Online Benefits, August 2013

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits page

SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page

SHRM Online Wellness Programs Resource Page

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