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 $4.8 billion annually in wasted spend in the United States.
Making sure employees are aware of everything provided in their benefits is an opportunity to boost satisfaction and retention: 64% of employees cite pay and benefits as their top reason for choosing a job.
Here are four ways plans and employers can optimize benefit communications:
1. Keep fertility benefit communications simple
Only about 65% of employees say that benefit communications help them understand how their benefits work. And worse, one in four people say that communications don’t clarify which benefits are even available.
To improve employees' health literacy, plan sponsors should write clearly, avoid jargon, define basic terms and keep sentences short. They should be mindful of their members’ average grade reading level and that many people don’t understand employee benefits terminology, even relatively common terms such as copay, deductible and premium.
2. Utilize benefits templates or similar resources
Plan sponsors don’t have to start from scratch when creating employee benefits communications. They can ask their health services partner for resources that they can customize to fit their benefit offering. An example is Evernorth’s Life Events Guide, a customizable PowerPoint presentation about family and fertility benefits.
3. Find the best way to communicate benefits to employees
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.
Plan sponsors shouldn’t be afraid to try new and emerging technologies, and think beyond what they’ve done in the past. For example, bringing in experts in health fields such as family building, behavioral health and nutrition can reach people on a personal level and allow for questions to be asked in a safe environment.
4. Focus on family health
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, plan sponsors should 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.
Originally published on 4/19/21 and updated on 4/5/23.