Mercer Provides Employers With Open Enrollment Communication Checklist

With key pieces of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) going into effect in 2014, employers have even more to consider this year as they prepare for their annual health benefits open enrollment. In response, Mercer has developed a short checklist that outlines steps employers should take to maximize the value of their benefits while minimizing employee questions and concerns:

1. Communicate the impact of health care reform: Employees are already confused and expecting the worst, with 41 percent anticipating that their situation will be worse off due to the ACA. Mercer noted that the best strategy is to communicate early and often to reduce fears, clarify misperceptions, and help employees make smart benefits decisions.

2. Promote the role of wellness initiatives within an overall health benefits program: Among very large employers who have measured the results of their wellness initiatives, more than 75 percent said their health management programs had a positive impact on their medical plan trends. Yet nearly 40 percent of employees who have access to wellness programs through their employer indicate they do not use them. Mercer has found through client experience that a targeted communications strategy can significantly boost wellness program participation.

3. Use online and mobile strategies for more convenient access to information and tools: In today’s mobile-oriented world, employees have less time to learn about their benefits, despite their need for more education. Mobile devices have become the dominant method of communication, with 56 percent of U.S. cell phone owners using their phones to access the internet, and 80 percent using their phones to text. According to Mercer, an effective communications program should deliver content and tools that can be viewed easily via a mobile device wherever and whenever an employee finds the time.

4. Empower your employees to become informed consumers: Even for employers not making changes to their plans, employers should provide access to educational resources to help employees navigate today’s complicated health care landscape—and better understand and appreciate the value of the benefits they are offered. Better education can lead to more cost-conscious choices.

5. Anticipate questions to avoid being overwhelmed with calls: The ACA’s 2014 provisions will likely spark numerous questions. An effective communication and education program that emphasizes self-service tools and convenient online access can minimize calls and reduce the burden on human resources staff and contact centers.

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