Making sense of the benefits puzzle Featured

10:19am EDT April 25, 2005
The health insurance benefits puzzle boggles many employers and employees. With so many pieces, parts and mix-and-match components to today's health care plans, both employers and employees must take on the responsibility of choosing and using their benefits wisely.

Your employee benefits consultant can unlock this information and help solve confusing issues by providing suitable plans and educational tools to help you facilitate an effective, valuable health insurance program. Benefits consultants should provide you with more than basic health, dental and vision plans. A good consultant will work with you to:

* Create a complete employee benefits package that fits the particular needs of your business

* Communicate the program options to your employees, so the best plans are selected

* Continue the value of the program with ongoing human resource support

Many employees choose one work place over another because of benefits, and employers know that offering more than basic insurance keeps their staff satisfied, motivated and loyal. But all too often, employers are not provided the appropriate communication tools to help employees understand insurance needs.

It is important to choose an employee benefits expert that invests time in researching relevant health care information for your particular business.

When employers are not equipped with resources to support their benefits packages, many times employees don't understand which plans meet their needs or do not dedicate time to learn about available health insurance options. Rather than asking questions, workers become frustrated working through the health care jigsaw and will leave pieces on the table for an employer to manage.

Partnering with the right employee benefits consultant will help you personalize the puzzle, so to speak. Your consultant can provide a variety of creative health care solutions and tools needed to educate your staff on their benefits. Particularly with the consumer-driven health care offerings such as Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements, it is imperative that your employees have full comprehension of their options.

A true benefits specialist will offer tools ranging from a detailed Web site to simple charts, grids, pamphlets and brochures as a way to educate your staff and encourage them to try these inventive options.

Communication is a critical factor in whether employees will play active roles in making benefits decisions. Work with your employee benefits expert on ways to implement a documented communications strategy. Even a simple plan pays off significantly in employee retention and satisfaction.

Your employee benefits consultant can offer you the right materials to help facilitate information flow, because you must inform workers of program changes and ways they can better utilize their plans.

Written communications or e-mail updates serve as useful documents. Further, periodic company meetings to review health insurance benefits and ways to maximize programs will help employees better understand and appreciate their benefits package. An expert in employee benefits will be able to support you by suggesting solutions, ranging from online human resource support to wellness fliers, brochures and payroll stuffers.

Employee benefits packages aren't valued when employees are not aware of or cannot make sense of their options. Don't lock your workers out of the significance of their benefits by working with a consultant that does not support you with the communication tools you need.

Jessica Galardini is COO of the Chambers of Commerce Service Corporation and executive vice president and COO of HRH Affinity Marketing Group. Reach her at (412) 456-7012.