Savvy employees can boost your bottom line Featured

9:54am EDT August 20, 2004
Many health plans and employers provide to employees information such as premiums, co-payment amounts and participating providers during open enrollment.

But that's not enough in this era of health care cost escalation. It's also important to give your employees access to useful information throughout the year.

To address rising costs, you and your insurer should help your employees become active health care consumers by providing meaningful information in an understandable and usable fashion.

You can promote health care consumerism by:

  • Identifying real cost drivers in health care

  • Explaining how choices affect costs

  • Demonstrating the value (cost) of health plan benefits

  • Guiding employees through open enrollment to select the health plan that fits their needs

With the advent of consumer-choice health plans, employees have to make more decisions than in the past. They need education and guidance to understand their choices and make informed decisions. Your leadership is vital to employee behaviorial change.

Many consumer-directed health plans do not have an educational component. However, a few insurers are starting to provide year-round, comprehensive employee education to help employees understand the true cost of health care and manage their spending, including turn-key communications packages that begin at pre-enrollment and continue through the plan year.

A good communication strategy makes use of newsletters, Web content and direct mail to educate employees and encourage them to gain a better understanding of their health benefits decisions. Insurers and employers are starting to recognize that it's important to guide members through the complexity of the health care system while placing them in control of health care decision-making.

Employees learn to weigh their options and compare costs and benefits so they select the right amount of coverage during enrollment. Throughout the year, with timely educational communications and Web-based tools and resources, employees learn how to get the most value out of their health benefits plan.

Offer year-round guidance
Before enrollment, during enrollment and after, it's important to give employees tips, tools and guidance to help them make smart use of their health benefits. Communications targeted to the interests of the company and its employees can make a big difference in keeping them on track. Even e-mail messages can reinforce wise decision-making.

Here are just two of the benefits you will reap by developing employees who are knowledgeable about effective use of health benefits.

  • Savings -- Employers are finding that employees who are engaged in choosing and using their health benefits become informed, cost-conscious consumers, which can help a company's bottom line.

  • Peace of mind -- By answering your employees' questions and giving them confidence in making health care decisions you'll give them a feeling of control over their benefits and their choices, as well as satisfaction with their coverage.

Take an active role in getting your employees up to speed on the many aspects of their coverage. A health benefits education program that actively engages employees year-round can be a real asset in controlling costs and providing much more than just a typical health plan.

And that's a real plus for you and your bottom line.

ALAN GUZZINO is president of Humana's Atlanta, North Carolina, and South Carolina market health plan operations and is responsible for the management, strategic planning and growth of those markets. Guzzino, an eight-year veteran of Humana, serves on the board of the Georgia Association of Health Plans. Reach him at aguzzino@humana.com.

ROBERT S. WOLFKIEL is vice president of sales for Humana's Atlanta market, responsible for managing and directing the sales initiatives, enrollment process and profitability of Humana's product portfolio within that market. Wolfkiel, although new to Humana, has over 14 years of health care industry experience. Reach him at rwolfkiel@humana.com.