Tips to Help Employees Make the Most of Health Benefits

Advice to Help Employees Navigate Open Enrollment Amid COVID-19
3:07 PM, Sep 28, 2020

By Shaun Schoener, Vice President, Sales and Account Management, Health Plan of Nevada

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many companies in Nevada to operate differently, presenting new challenges and requiring some to respond to a newly at-home workforce.

Whether employees are working remotely or in-person, this fall’s open-enrollment season for health benefits will likely be different than in the past. In fact, a recent UnitedHealthcare survey found that 44% of respondents expect to change the health plan they select due to COVID-19, including 16% opting for an option with lower out-of-pocket costs. More than one-third (35%) of respondents said they expect to spend more time evaluating their benefits this year, and with good reason: The financial and health care challenges created by COVID-19 may make health benefit decisions especially important.

To help simplify the health care experience for employees, support their well-being and potentially curb costs, here are five tips employers should consider during open enrollment and year-round.

Help Improve Health Care Literacy: According to a UnitedHealthcare survey, more than 78% of Americans say they are prepared for open enrollment, yet previous research shows that some people struggle to fully understand common health care terms and concepts, including plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum. Employers may help improve “health care literacy” by sharing public resources such as JustPlainClear.com, which provides definitions for thousands of health care terms.

Make Telehealth a Priority: Given COVID-19 has changed how and where people obtain health care services, it may be important to offer a health plan that includes coverage for telehealth, ideally including options for telehealth visits with their own doctors and 24/7 access to a national provider network. If fact, the use of telehealth resources has surged, enabling some people to connect with a health care provider via mobile device. Telehealth resources are designed to be a more convenient way to visit with a doctor about various health issues, ranging from urgent and routine care, on-going chronic condition management, behavioral health and specialty care such as oral and eye health. At Health Plan of Nevada, we offer NowClinic, 24/7/365 telehealth service to our Commercial, Medicaid and Medicare. It is staffed by Southwest Medical Associates providers and available through an app you can download on your smart phone.

Encourage Employees to Move More: Some health plans offer wellness programs for employers that may enable their employees to earn financial incentives, such as gift cards or deductible credits, for completing health assessments, signing up for health coaching programs, lowering cholesterol, going to gyms or even using fitness trackers. More recently, some health plans may be starting to offer access at no additional cost to digital fitness resources, which may help enable people to take advantage of live and on-demand exercise classes at home or on the road.

Bundle Benefits: While many people may focus on medical coverage during open enrollment, it may be important that employees avoid overlooking specialty benefits such as vision, dental, hearing and accident protection. In fact, the recent UnitedHealthcare survey found that 84% of employees said having access to specialty benefits is “important.” Plus, companies that combine medical coverage with specialty benefits through a single health care company may be able to help improve health outcomes, flag gaps in care, drive productivity, and reduce costs[1].

By considering these tips, employers may help increase employee retention, satisfaction and build a culture of well-being.

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