Category Archives: Communications

Seven simple steps to a stress-free enrollment

When it comes to open enrollment, communication matters. But is it working? Many employers don’t think so. A recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 80% of organizations think employees don’t open or read materials. And 49% think employees don’t understand the content. So what’s the solution? Try these tips to get your messages across.

1. Look at last year. Consider the feedback you got on last year’s campaign. Which communication pieces resonated? Which fell flat? Take a look at the questions employees raised and work those into your materials for this year.

2. Define success and then measure it. Determine what a successful campaign looks like. What are your goals? Do you want a certain number of employees to enroll in a medical plan or use the online tools? After enrollment, look at the numbers and gather employee feedback via focus groups or an online survey to guide future campaigns.

3. Cut the clutter. People don’t want to weed through a 50-page brochure to find information. Remember that readers are used to quickly scanning an article for the high points. Break up paragraphs into bullet points, pull important details into callouts, and use infographics in place of long-winded narratives.

4. Know your purpose. Start with what you want your communication piece to do and let that drive the format. For example, if you want to educate, use FAQs and examples. If you want to inspire employees, feature testimonials.

5. Use straight talk. Don’t try to sugarcoat change messages. Clearly explain what’s happening, why it’s happening, and when it’s happening. Change can be hard, but you have to be honest with employees to earn their trust.

6. Start early and communicate often. Give employees a heads-up early on, especially if you’re making major plan design changes. Announce key dates, such as when enrollment will be and when employee meetings will be held. As the deadline approaches, remind employees to take action.

7. Go for variety. Reach your employees with a variety of media to appeal to generational and personal preferences. For example, if you’re explaining a new high-deductible health plan, you might mail employees a print piece to their homes, post a video online, and walk through the new plan at employee meetings.

If you need additional support, be sure to talk with your Milliman communication consultant.

This article first appeared on RetirementTownHall.com.

Effectively communicating plan design

As multiemployer plans focus on delivering health benefits to their members in a cost-effective and efficient way, a key component is clearly and concisely communicating the thought process behind plan design and plan design changes.

Given the limited amount of money available to spend on benefits, multiemployer plans must avoid unnecessary services and reduce waste in an effort to contain costs. As a result, increased member cost sharing, restrictions on certain services, and more tightly managed benefits are often implemented to manage the plans’ spending.

However, despite these changes mainly being made for the “greater good of the plan,” they will be interpreted in different ways (generally negatively) by the membership. For example, a plan with high emergency room use (for nonemergencies) may increase the emergency room copayment (and perhaps lower the primary care physician copayment as an offset). For a member who legitimately needs to use the emergency room, an increased copayment will feel like a punishment. But if the change is communicated effectively, along with the reason(s) for the change, members may be more likely to be amenable to the change.

Effective communication to members includes delivering the message via email, pamphlets, mailings, bulletin board postings, or meetings—any mode of communication that reaches the membership. The message should be concise—the fewer the words, the more likely members will listen—and it should be repeated often. For example, if the plan wishes to emphasize preventive care to avoid higher-cost services in the future, the headline could be “The Importance of Preventive Services,” and members should have multiple opportunities—at least once every three to six months—to receive the message until the plan is sure that the message has been heard. If the membership understands the plan’s goals in administering benefits, the plan is more likely to achieve or even surpass these goals.

This article first appeared on LaborPress.org.

The power of personalization

tenBroek-HeidiKernich-DanaMaking decisions about health coverage is difficult. Medical jargon, network limitations, and vague pricing contribute to the minefield of confusion experienced by even educated employees. According to a recent survey, only 14% of Americans can accurately define basic healthcare terms such as deductible, copay, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximum.1 In order to be smart consumers of healthcare—making the best decisions for themselves and keeping costs in check for employers footing the majority of the bill—employees must be able to understand the coverage offered to them. Personalizing health coverage communications can help employees, and ultimately their employers.

Marketers have demonstrated for years that personalization works:

• Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates (customer actions such as sales or subscriptions) than non-personalized emails2
• 73% of consumers prefer to do business with companies that use personalization to make their shopping experience more relevant3
• 86% of consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions4

If it works, use it! Personalized materials provide more focus for better decision making and leave employees feeling less overwhelmed by confusing information. Creating these materials isn’t as difficult as employers might think. Here’s an example of how an employee enrolled in a standard preferred provider organization (PPO) plan could be introduced to the potential cost savings of a high-deductible plan:

The power of personalization

1Lowenstein, G. (September 2013). Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance. Journal of Health Economics 32, no. 5: 850-862.
2Experian Marketing Services (December 2013). 2013 Email Market Study: How Today’s Email Marketers Are Connecting, Engaging and Inspiring Their Customers. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.experian.com/assets/marketing-services/white-papers/ccm-email-study-2013.pdf.
3 Nasri, G. (December 10, 2012). Why consumers are increasingly willing to trade data for personalization. DigitalTrends.com. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/why-consumers-are-increasingly-willing-to-trade-data-for-personalization/#ixzz2g8dgrqko.
4Infosys (December 2013). Study: Rethinking Retail: Insights From Consumers and Retailers Into an Omni-Channel Shopping Experience. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from https://www.infosys.com/newsroom/press-releases/Documents/genome-research-report.pdf.

HR fatigue in relation to the ACA

Gray-MikelWhile the human resources (HR) community continues to adapt to changes caused by the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), we wonder if HR professionals are experiencing job fatigue in relation to ever-increasing responsibilities created as a result of the ACA? Here are just two of the many additional responsibilities facing HR professionals post-ACA:

• HR professionals are tasked with additional reporting requirements under the ACA, including Section 6056 Reporting for applicable large employers to demonstrate they have met their shared responsibilities by providing affordable coverage, as well as 6055 Reporting (required starting in 2016) to provide documentation about which employees and dependents are covered by minimum value coverage month by month.
• HR professionals are seeing increased scrutiny from management as benefit budgets expand, which is due to the high and rising cost of coverage, potentially compounded by excise tax implications. These costs are gaining exposure at the top levels of organizations. More and more, HR departments are being asked, “What are we doing to control these costs?” That can be a difficult question to answer in meetings that demand encapsulated answers.

As a result, HR professionals are being asked more and more to take the lead in considering plan design changes and technology improvements to gain efficiencies and appeal to younger employees, but only when compared with the cost and feasibility of successful implementation. Finding a solution to these issues can be an exhausting process, especially for those HR professionals who have traditionally concentrated much of their efforts on other areas of the business.

We will be writing two follow-up blogs regarding what employers can do to solve the fatigue. The first will be on outsourcing, and the second will be on private exchanges. Stay tuned.

Pull-through capabilities: Communicating effectively with prescribers about cost and coverage

There are challenges that make it difficult to make prescribers aware of a brand drug’s cost and coverage landscape, and pull-through efforts that only provide prescribers with high-level information won’t overcome them. Milliman has developed a five-step process to establish a pull-through capability that informs prescribing decisions.

This brochure specifies how our process can help you provide succinct, targeted communications that are specific to a geographic area of practice, which will enable prescribers to provide cost-effective therapies to patients in need.

Conversations with your actuary: Getting to the right number

Healthcare leaders understand their own organization’s insurance programs better than anyone else does. The challenge lies in effectively communicating a comprehensive description of the program to all parties, including the actuary, auditor, and broker. It is important for healthcare finance leaders to discuss with the actuary any changes to claims management, coverage or retention, financial reporting of losses, management goals, or other insurance or operational areas.

In this article, Richard Frese discusses the actuary’s role in providing and communicating independent estimates that can more accurately reflect the true exposure of an insurance program.

This article was published on hfma.org, the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s website.