Although the majority of Americans say the Affordable Care Act has had no direct impact on their lives, the law remains controversial—among the public and in the media. Despite the belated success of the public exchanges, 45% of the public views the law unfavorably.
Compared to prior years—when regulation and litigation was fast and furious—2014 feels somewhat quiet. We’re through the bulk of mandated changes and notifications, and employers are looking ahead: planning for 2015 benefit renewals and plotting how to avoid the Cadillac tax in 2018.
Still, employees need—and want—to hear from you. With sensational headlines, negative perceptions and misinformation still at the forefront, employees are looking to you to help them understand clear and simply “What’s in it for me?” You need to work harder than ever to promote the value of what you offer now, even if it may be changing significantly in the future.
Here are three simple but important messages to convey as part of your 2015 communication strategy:
1. ACA is here to stay and our benefits will continue to change to keep up.
Let employees know that while the employer mandate has been delayed, the individual mandate has not. Assure them that as long as they’re on your plan, they have the kind of coverage the government requires them to have—so they’ll avoid a penalty on their 2015 taxes.
Also, let them know that just as you’ve already made changes to comply with the law, your benefits will continue to evolve. However, be careful about blaming ACA or creating a negative context for your benefits changes. Most companies are aggressively moving toward high-deductible plans. Saying, “ACA made us do it” isn’t going to get you the inspired health engagement you’re after.
2. Our health care system is undergoing a transformation.
Indeed, all aspects of our health care system are changing—and rapidly. In the short term, there will be some challenges and confusion.
Doctors and hospitals are incented to modernize and will be moving to electronic health records. New initiatives will change the way hospitals and provider groups are paid—less for quantity in patients seen and more for quality in patients served. For example, today a hospital is paid for each patient admitted, including readmissions. In the future, a hospital may be paid instead for keeping readmissions low.
3. You must invest time and energy to get the best care—and the best value from your employee benefits.
The system is far from perfect and employees and their families need to be persistent and engaged in their health care. They should be asking their doctors how much procedures will cost and whether there are alternatives to tests or treatments. That knowledge brings power—to increase their awareness and decrease costs. Use the Choosing Wisely campaign and Employer Toolkit to help you with that message.
At the same time, using the momentum of health care dialog is a fantastic way to encourage employees to get the most value from all of your benefits—by using them. With so much change, and with health care options all around, it is more important than ever to reinforce the value of what you provide to employees and their families.
Emphasize the programs you provide that help employees make good decisions. Also, invest more in health care literacy and education that will help people navigate the system. Expect more questions from employees—the more you can proactively communicate, the better value you will convey.
For detailed education, see our Master Class webinar series.
Then, share your insights on your communication strategies, tactics and more: Take our Inside Benefits Communication Survey, jointly presented with the National Business Coalition on Health.