As an employer or benefit administrator, how do you help your employees understand the value of a service that really starts to pay off after a couple of years? How do you help them fine tune or understand a plan that has a “use or lose it” stipulation attached to it? The world of pre-tax benefits can be a bit intimidating for employees.
 
What can employers do to change employees' perception of the healthcare options they have to choose from?  First things first, take the “complicated” out of it. Break the information down into chunks and educate your employees in layman’s terms.
   
So, where do you start?  Here are a few suggestions.
  1. Change the way you talk about HDHP’s (High Deductible Health Plans) – The phrase “high deductible” can be a deterrent in itself. Instead, try calling them HSA-eligible plans.  Simply changing the name makes the plan appear more approachable.
  2. Keep communication simple – You know your audience. Speak to them like you would your friends.
  3. Squash the misconceptions -- Generally, employees may feel like HSA and FSA accounts are for other people and wouldn’t work for them. They believe that HSAs are “use-it-or-lose it” accounts, or that pre-tax funds can ONLY be used for doctor and hospital visits. Both of these are untrue. HSA's can be spending accounts or, in fact, savings accounts. Monies left in the account at the end of the plan year roll over to the next year. HSAs have investment options and can be used as retirement accounts that can help pay for Medicare premiums. Pre-tax funds can be used for doctor visits, hospital visits, prescriptions, deductibles, chiropractors, medical supplies and so much more!
  4. Ask for peer guidance - Let’s be honest, employees tend to trust each other more than management. If someone had a bad experience with a product, a friend or co-worker is likely going to avoid the product due to word-of-mouth information. Reach out to your employees, identify who is using the pre-tax benefits, and ask if they would be a voice for the rest of the organization. You can have them speak about their experiences, and use those experiences to educate on unique ways that the pre-tax benefits can work for each individual. Try hosting a lunch or seminar for employees, or publish the testimonials in an employee memo or newsletter. Having your employees discuss these topics in a positive environment will help slow down the water cooler conversations, which can be a misconception breeding ground.
  5. Offer calculators and other tools for employees to use - Encourage them to play around with the tools and ask questions.
  6. Start an educational campaign for your employees - give your employees time to absorb and understand the different options.  Focus on one product at a time, and build on each module of the campaign.  
Be transparent, keep it simple and start early.   These are key ingredients to a healthy and happy workplace.   
 
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