Most consumers rank choosing a health plan below doing their taxes and getting a cavity filled at the dentist. Unfortunately, the upcoming open enrollment period may force people to go through the process of choosing a plan. But with help from employers and administrators, the process doesn’t have to be painful.
Many people have postponed trying to understand the new trend of Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP), High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP), or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) because they don’t know what these terms mean and companies have done a poor job explaining what these plans can do for employees.
As more businesses start to move toward offering HDHPs, human resource departments and companies may now require employees to actively make a decision during this upcoming open enrollment period regardless if they want to stay with their existing plan or not. Do your employees really understand the benefits and challenges with these types of plans?
Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP) and High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP)
The goal of these plans is to put people in control of their health care by pairing low premium plans with tax advantaged funding accounts like Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). But, based on a recent Acclaris report, 40 percent of health professionals said HSAs are the most difficult for consumers to understand. Even consumers who have HSA accounts, don't fully understand them and only 30 percent of account holders pass a basic HSA proficiency exam according to this study by Alegeus Technologies.
You don’t really need numbers to understand why consumers are confused, however. Check out the description of what an HDHP includes: “A maximum limit on the sum of the annual deductible and out-of-pocket medical expenses that an enrollee must pay for covered expenses. Out-of-pocket expenses include co-payments and other amounts, but do not include premiums.”
It’s easy to see why people are confused and may not fully understand these plans. But as we approach open enrollment, it’s critical for anyone associated with health care plans to help people make sense out of this alphabet soup of choices.
Employers are Responsible for Education
With more than half of the 300+ health care industry professionals surveyed by Acclaris stating that employers should be responsible for educating consumers about consumer-driven health plans, it’s time that employers do a better job at explaining these plans.
How are you educating your employees about HDHPs or HSAs? Are you using plan summary documents and enrollment forms? Do you use text on your website to explain an HSA? Because that is not enough.
The study by Acclaris also found that employers that want to educate consumers should focus on communication channels like email, online help, benefits portal, seminars/peer forums, chat, text, telephone, social media.
Virtual assistants that actively speak to employees directly from their computer screen, tablet or mobile device have been proven to be more effective and engaging than text, email or even video, because avatars or virtual assistants are interactive and can be there exactly at the moment of need. Gartner predicts that 50 percent of online customer self-service search activity will happen through a virtual assistant for many large companies.
The health care industry needs to embrace engagement. This doesn’t just mean health care providers. It also means companies that are enrolling their employees in health insurance plans. With these types of plans, it’s likely that consumers will be calling their HSA administrators and HSA banks as well. Employees may never even talk to their health plan, but may spend a lot of time talking with the administrator or bank. These types of providers need to have a decision support plan in place. Understanding that you can use an avatar or virtual assistant to deflect the frequently asked questions in a more dynamic way will increase consumers understanding and decrease the amount of calls.
Remember, educating is not a one-time thing that only happens during the open enrollment time period. Ongoing guidance and communication has to happen the entire year. Consumers need tools that enable them to make smart health care decisions on an ongoing basis.
If this was useful, check out these posts:
- Consumers Are Re-Shopping Healthcare Plans. Are You Ready?
- 10 Best Practices for Improving Consumer Choice on Health Exchanges
- Healthcare Literacy, Understanding Obamacare
About the Author
As Director of Healthcare Consulting, Ray is focused on CodeBaby’s healthcare specific customers and delivering on CodeBaby’s mission of customer centricity. With over 20 years of experience in medical devices, healthcare and technology, specifically: ehealth, health insurance, and software, Ray is a subject matter expert who contributes to industry articles, and speaks at trade shows and events.Follow on Twitter More Content by Ray Catudal