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0606 HR Magazine: Introduction: Carefully Chosen Words

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HR Magazine, June 2006Vol. 51, No. 6

It’s essential that you make your messages to employees about their health coverage options as effective as possible. 

The stakes this year may be the highest ever for your open enrollment message on health coverage.

If you’re anything less than perfectly clear in spelling out the facts, figures and implications of the options you’re offering employees, you risk failing to enlist them as partners in your efforts to harness health cost increases.

Many employees, of course, have already been drawn into changes occurring in employer-sponsored health coverage. They’re paying a larger share of their premium expenses now. Their co-payments and deductibles are going up. They are being urged to live more healthfully and manage their health issues more closely.

Those initiatives are just the beginning, however. Many employers, hoping to get employees to be more careful about health spending, are offering high-deductible health plans and tax-favored health accounts, which encourage curtailment of health spending.

While benefits experts are comfortable with the vocabulary and the details of these types of coverage, most employees are not. And if they don’t fully understand what they’re reading and hearing, they could make choices that aren’t best for them—and that may be out of sync with the movement toward more-informed health care decision-making.

It all comes down to the quality of the messages you deliver, as the two articles on the following pages make clear. In “Writing for Open Enrollment,” freelance writer Pamela Babcock sets forth experts’ suggestions on how to shape the messages that employees will read. In the subsequent article, “Now Hear This,” communications professional Lin Grensing-Pophal sets out the best practices for delivering the messages that employees will hear in group settings.

The methods differ but they’re alike in purpose: to make sure employees gain an inerrant grasp of the material they must consider so that they can make the best choices about their health coverage. How well they choose depends on how well you communicate. 

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