When people understand the health care resources available to them, they can make better decisions about their own health and the health of their families. Women are often the drivers behind their family’s health care decisions. That’s why improving health insurance literacy – especially for women – leads to better health outcomes and lower downstream costs.
Low health insurance literacy has been linked to medication nonadherence, reduced use of preventative care, delays or avoidance of outpatient care, and even reduced productivity.
Members failing to understand their benefits is more than an inconvenience; employers and insurers spend an additional $26 for every consumer with low health insurance literacy, which adds up to $3.4 billion annually in wasted spend in the United States.
Making sure employees are aware of everything provided in their benefit is an opportunity to boost satisfaction: 63 percent of employees say benefits are their deciding factor for a job, just behind salary at 69 percent.
Here are four ways plans and employers can optimize benefit communications:
1. Keep it simple
Using plain language can help the 60% of employees who sometimes have difficulty understanding their employee benefits communications. In fact, more than one in four people have avoided medical treatment due to uncertainty over coverage.
To improve employees' health insurance literacy, write clearly, avoiding jargon and keeping sentences short. Be mindful that many people don’t understand employee benefits terminology, even relatively common terms such as copay, deductible and premium. To maximize understanding, define even basic terms.
2. Utilize templates or similar resources
You don’t have to start from scratch when creating employee benefits communications – ask if your PBM or health plan has resources you can customize to fit your benefit offering. An example is Evernorth’s Life Events Guide, a customizable PowerPoint presentation about family and fertility benefits.
3. One communication size does not fit all
Some employees may not feel comfortable discussing benefit options in a meeting.
Employers may need to utilize a mix of print and digital media, learning sessions and face-to-face communications.
Don’t be afraid to try new and emerging technologies, and think beyond what you’ve done in the past. For example, bring in experts in health fields such as nutrition to reach people on a personal level and allow for questions to be asked in a safe environment.
4. Focus on families
A lack of education around benefits also can be detrimental for those who are in the process of starting a family, including expectant mothers and those looking to fertility treatment, adoption or surrogacy. Women with lower health insurance literacy are less likely to have preconception counseling, and on average they start prenatal care 4.5 weeks later.
When designing communications, be sure to include family-focused benefits. Research shows that 34% of respondents would change jobs or encourage their partner to change jobs for better pregnancy, fertility and adoption coverage.