When I received my Open Enrollment booklet that year there was a big change. There were new medical plans, actually high deductible plans. At first I ignored them until I noticed the monthly employee deductions. It was going to cost me triple to stay in my low cost, copay for my services, plan. The high deductible option required a lower monthly pay deduction however, I was going to be on the hook for the first $2,000 of my medical services.

That was years ago when my company moved 75% of its employees out of our comfortable 100% paid HMO plan to a consumer directed health plan option. As an account executive, what a great story I was able to tell to potential corporate clients who were interested in those plans for their own employees. They could save lots of money, still provide coverage to their employees and finally find a way to engage their employees in their own health.

Despite all the studies that indicate improved health outcomes, worse health outcomes, or lower employer costs, there still is no “right” answer when it comes to how employees will react to being “pushed” to a consumer directed (high deductible) health plan. Although our organizations seek to foster a congruent culture, within it we have many types of employees each requiring a path to changing and adopting corporate strategies.

Not providing that path to change leaves us with unhappy and stressed employees and is completely counter to our desire for healthier employees.

The types of employees that I’ve encountered throughout the years include:

Missed the Communication – This employee somehow did not pay enough attention when making their selections and enrolled in a high deductible plan. Later in the plan year, they get an unexpected bill from their doctor and simply can’t understand what happened. They call the Benefits Call Center immediately to complain and broadly share with their co-workers how “crappy” the company benefits plan have become.

Unprepared – This employee understood what they signed up for and made the decision because they needed a small monthly employer deduction. Now that they’ve had medical services, they are in a payment plan with their medical group that will last a year. They are feeling the additional cost of their medical plan and don’t know how to seek lower cost services such as alternative labs and mail-order drugs. Financial stress is an added burden for this employee.

Uninformed – An example here would be Lois. Lois owned 10+ properties and was a wiz at financially managing millions of dollars in the real estate world. When it came to her benefits, she was paralyzed. She would pay a considerably higher monthly deduction just so she could continue paying a $25 copay when she went to the doctor. Lois understood nothing about how deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums or preventive care services work. Lois also would not think highly of her benefits and be angry about the costs.

Engaged – Yes, this employee can predict their health costs, determine the best plan, understand the out-of-pockets and deductibles, identifies the risks and generally makes the best decision for themselves. This employee “has it together” and is not distracted by the plan options. It’s what we all hoped all our employees would understand from the many communication and tools provided.

Obviously the engaged employees are less distracted and stressed and more capable of focusing on personal and corporate initiatives.

Before we finish up our open enrollments and completely wind down for the holidays, consider planning how we can support Missed the CommunicationUnprepared, and Uninformed in the new year. Depending on the significance of the changes to your plans this open enrollment, ongoing outreach and attention may be the difference between anyone paying attention to upcoming company initiatives including your wellness programs.

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