How well do your employees understand their health care benefits?

It’s a universal challenge for employers.

A study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found a gap in employee benefits: communication.

According to the study:

  • 19 percent of employers report employees having a high level of understanding their benefits.
  • 80 percent of employers report employees do not open/read benefit materials.
  • 31 percent of employers report employees do not perceive value in their benefits.

Consider the following five tips to help employees understand and use their benefits.

Reach Out to Employees in Multiple Ways, and Often

Many companies only talk about benefits during open enrollment; that’s not enough. With a year-round communication strategy, you can explain complex topics in bite-size pieces. You can send timely reminders to select a primary care provider or get a flu shot. A mid-year benefits fair can help to check in with employees.

Also, consider your workforce and how they communicate throughout the day. An enrollment confirmation email is a good start, but you may also need to mail information to employees’ homes. By communicating in multiple ways – email, onsite meetings, printed collateral, an online portal and mail – you can reach more of your employee population. Whether online, in person or in print, be consistent in your message and steer clear of jargon. Visual aids like maps, graphs and tables can make details easier to understand and remember.

Show What’s New

Benefits can be complicated. Build on what employees already know about their previous benefits and explain what’s different. Be up front about changes, like increased co-pays or higher deductibles, to help prevent cost surprises. It’s also important to explain the “why” behind the changes, especially if your company has adopted a different approach to health benefits.

Give Tips on How to Use Benefits

You can help employees make the most of their benefits. Share tips on how to:

* Find in-network providers and determine what their share of cost will be.

* Use online tools to get cost estimates, compare quality and choose the treatment setting that’s right for them.

* Seek nonemergency care at urgent care centers when their doctor’s office is closed. Save money on prescriptions by requesting preferred generics and using mail order for maintenance medications.

Demonstrate Value

Helping your employees understand the value of their benefits may increase employee satisfaction and loyalty. To make this “hidden” part of the paycheck more visible, more than half of top-performing employers provide an annual total compensation statement. These statements put a dollar figure on the benefits package. The most detailed statements also show how much a medical plan has paid and total employee out-of-pocket costs.

Connect Them to Resources

Make sure employees know all the ways they can get answers to their benefits questions – by phone, online or even in person.

Your healthcare provider can connect you to available resources.

Your provider works with employers and their brokers to develop communication strategies that help employees understand and get the most out of their plan benefits.


This article was written by Barbara Vernon from Fairfield County Business Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax or financial advisors to understand the tax, financial and legal consequences of any strategies mentioned in this article.