BY RYAN SPENCER
Now that we are a few months into the year, you and your employees are starting to feel the impact of your health benefits plan. Employees have visited the doctor and emergency room and, as a result, they have once again seen firsthand the best and worst parts of their health care package. If you and your team are planning to make positive improvements next year, now is the time to start the process with a detailed strategy.
Most plans have a January 1 renewal/start date. That may seem like a long way off, but program improvements take time. Changing strategy requires education, budget projections, compliance checks, communication, and roll-out. If you have multiple office locations and hundreds or thousands of employees, you may require even more time to make the switch.
If you want change in the future, follow our step-by-step guide for a smoother transition.
Step 1: Decide Where You Want to Go
Before you can begin making improvements, you must first decide what features you and your employees want. Start by asking these questions:
- How much are you currently paying and what would you rather pay?
- How important is it to gain more control over your costs this year?
- Which benefits and plan features and services are most important for your employees?
- What is currently broken that needs to be fixed or addressed?
When considering your answers to these questions, avoid the temptation to appease the loudest people in the room. Some clients struggle with staff members who shout for certain features or products, while soft-spoken employees fail to speak up about what they most need. Instead of giving into the demands of your employees, hold a discussion with your leadership team to decide who has a vote and which features and products are most important to the majority of your workforce. Bowing to complaints and cries from below may prevent you from taking steps big enough to realize significant improvements for your employees or you may miss what brings value to most of your employees.
Step 2: Design Your Plan to Reach Your Target Destination
Once you know where you want to go, design the plan that will help you get there by considering your goals. Examples:
- If you want employees to have access to better care, you must re-evaluate whether your employees have access to the right information.
- If you want to reduce your annual premium increases, you should understand where your spend is going.
- If you want lower pharmaceutical costs, explore the price structures at surrounding pharmacies and scrutinize the pricing practices of pharmacy benefit managers.
By exploring the different levers available to you, you can pull the right ones to build the plan that meets your employees’ needs.
Step 3: Communicate With Employees
Once your plan is designed, your leadership team must communicate the changes to employees—but don’t fall into the traps of company meetings, email, and paper mail. While these can be effective methods when done properly, employees often tune them out because they are overwhelming, hard to understand, and most employees prefer other communication channels.
Our clients have seen success by communicating change in small snippets sent through:
- Text messages
- Voice mail messaging
- Social media
When you reach employees the way they want to be contacted, you improve their understanding of plan details. As a result, they are better able to use the plan for their health, improving the plan’s overall value.
Continuously improving your health care plan is a tall task, but it is easier when you have a structured plan to guide you. By taking the right steps, you simplify the process. Although you may need six to nine months to prepare, your foresight will result in a plan that performs on behalf of your employees with lower costs attached.