A lack of healthcare literacy costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year and reduces good health outcomes. On both an economic and personal level, we know we need to do more to help people understand our complicated healthcare world. At the individual company level, you know that cost-savings on healthcare, for employees and employers alike, comes down to selecting the right plans, benefits, and options.

Healthcare literacy can be addressed with excellent communication and support, but what should you focus on? After all, your team can’t cover every single benefit option or eventuality. Here are three key concepts which studies show employees don’t grasp well. Make these the focus of future communications and start putting the power of healthcare literacy in your employees’ hands.

Basic Health Care Terminology

Deductibles. Co-pays. HSAs. The jargon of the healthcare industry gets passed on to our teams through booklets, websites, and flyers, but how much of it actually makes sense? Detailed explanations might be necessary to help employees not just understand how different benefits plans work, but how they will work on the individual’s level.

You can help address this knowledge gap with simplified communication (discussed below), but some people will need questions answered one-on-one. A call center might be useful for larger companies in this case.

Coverage Options

What’s in-network? What is out-of-network? Who are eligible dependents? From partners to pets, employees want coverage — and their needs are only growing with the current employment crisis leaving so many people without their own health insurance. What employees say they have issue with is understanding how their coverage works and who it covers.

Distill the message about coverage options with simplified language. You can use the steps below to create communication which explains dependents, network coverage, and differences in plan costs.

Voluntary Benefits

You work hard to offer the best voluntary benefits, but some employees ignore them no matter what you do. This is often due to a lack of understanding. What are they, why do they cost extra, and are they really helpful? Some employees might never even skim through the offerings, seeing them only as an unnecessary cost.

Showcase the voluntary benefits which can help your employees most with simple explanations of the offering, the cost, and the potential benefits. It might be helpful to state an if/then scenario: if you are saving for a house, then this benefit can help you reach your goal more quickly.

Perhaps most importantly, make sure it’s completely clear when dental and vision coverage are voluntary, as many employees may assume they’re part of medical coverage.

Explaining It To Everyone

The CDC provides a plain-language guide to developing healthcare messaging which is easy to understand. You can use some of their tips to create communications which will get attention, showcase the message, and make it as clear to a general audience as possible.

Some of these guidelines include:

  • Using visual cues like boldface and a heading such as “What you need to know” in order to emphasize the communications’ main message. Placing a box around the main message is another good tool for emphasis.
  • Include an image or graphic that conveys or supports the message. Use the visual aid to break up a block of words, making the communication easier to read.
  • Finish with an obvious Call to Action. What do you want your employees to do with the information? Should they visit a website to learn more, or call the HR hotline to sign up for services? Close out the communication giving your employees a clear vision of what to do with the information.

Tightening your benefits messaging to account for knowledge gaps in these three key areas can result in stronger healthcare literacy, and better cost-savings, for both your employees and your company.

You can leverage other tools to improve healthcare literacy and enrollment with a strategic plan utilizing WBD programs such as our benefits supersite, online enrollment platforms, call center support, or decision support tools. Contact WBD or click to learn more about how we can create a custom solution for your company.

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