Get Out of the Shade: Shed Some Light on Your Benefit Plans

By: Ann Marie Olszewski

Depending on when your plan year renews, the summer months may be relatively quiet from a benefits perspective. Annual enrollment may have recently ended, or you may be just beginning the planning process for 2018. Take advantage of the lull by reminding your employees about the benefits available to them, and how they can be used to greater personal advantage.

Here are some items to think about:

  • EAP? What’s that? An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may be included, at no additional cost, with your company’s life or disability coverage. You may also be paying a fee for upgraded benefits. But chances are, no matter how robust your EAP, your employees have forgotten about it!

Contact your EAP for an updated brochure, as well as information about other perks that may be included, such as will preparation. By distributing such materials mid-year, you shine a spotlight on a benefit that’s easily disregarded during the rush of annual enrollment. Remind employees of what the EAP provides: Free face-to-face counseling sessions? Personalized community referrals on everything from child care to finding a dog trainer? Financial resources to help you manage debt and create a budget? By keeping this benefit consistently in front of employees, they are more likely to recognize its usefulness in all types of situations.

  • Have you seen your doctor lately? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans access preventive services at around half the recommended rate. Your company’s medical plan likely covers the entire cost of certain preventive services, including wellness exams, mammograms and vaccinations. Consider issuing a communication piece to remind employees that there is no cost-sharing for such services when they use a network provider. But cost is only part of the issue – employees may not recognize the importance of seeing a doctor when they feel well. Be sure to stress that early detection of silent or minor conditions can save them money and maintain their good health in the future.
  • What they don’t know . . . is a great opportunity. Employees may not understand how their health plan works, especially if it’s a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) with an associated health savings account (HSA). Take some time now to provide brief but carefully targeted communication pieces that explain difficult concepts, such as a person’s eligibility to make and receive HSA contributions.

Similarly, perhaps some of your benefit plans offer unexpected perks, such as hearing aid discounts for members enrolled for vision coverage. Contact your carriers for flyers, payroll stuffers and other associated materials that shine a light on these value-added benefits.

Think of mid-year communications as a kind of “continuing education.” Keep rolling out information during the year, so employees will understand more about your company’s benefit plans and be better prepared to make thoughtful decisions during annual enrollment.

  • Don’t forget about wellness. If your company’s wellness plan collects health information from participants, you need to give advance notice to employees about the program so they can decide whether to participate. For example, if your plan year renews on January 1, 2018, and you will conduct biometric screenings this fall, you could issue this notice to employees during the summer.

This notice is required by the EEOC for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2017. If you choose, you can develop your own notice, as long as it clearly explains what information will be collected, who will receive it, how it will be used, and the steps taken to maintain its confidentiality. However, to make this easier, the EEOC has provided a sample notice, which you should customize based on the specifics of your company’s wellness plan.

Many employees pay scant attention to their benefits package, even if they think it’s important to have coverage. To better incorporate your benefits into a total health and wellbeing strategy, don’t limit communications to new hires and at annual enrollment. Remind employees, throughout the year, of how their various benefits protect them and their families, and assist them in maintaining their health and lifestyle. Regular, concise communication is critical to increasing their knowledge, appreciation and participation in your company’s benefit programs.

 

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About Marsh & McLennan Agency – Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC, a subsidiary of Marsh, was established in 2008 to meet the needs of midsize businesses in the United States. MMA operates autonomously from Marsh to offer employee benefits, executive benefits, retirement, commercial property & casualty, and personal lines to clients across the United States.