If there’s one universal truth about employee benefits, it’s this: they are complicated.
For employers, benefits are quite complex to administer and manage and difficult to communicate. For employees, benefits are difficult to understand and actually use—and the data supports this assumption.
- Half of employees (49%) say making health insurance decisions is always very stressful for them.
- Among those whose company offers health insurance, 36% feel the open enrollment process at their company is extremely confusing.
- More than half of all employees whose company offers health insurance (55%) say they would like help from their employer when choosing a health plan.
Having a robust employee benefits education plan in place is the first step to help bridge the gap between employee benefits and how to understand and use them—but that can often be easier said than done.
Getting started is the hardest part, but we’re here to help.
Here is a comprehensive list of employee benefits FAQs that you should clearly and concisely answer in your benefits and educational materials.
General Health Care and Benefits FAQs—Enrollment, Eligibility, Etc.
Q: When is open enrollment?
Q: When is our plan year?
Q: When am I eligible to enroll?
Q: What types of employee benefits am I eligible for?
Q: How do I enroll in benefits?
Q: Can I add family members to my benefits? —If so, how?
Q: Am I required to sign up for health insurance?
Q: What happens if I do not enroll/miss open enrollment?
Q: Will I get penalized for not having health insurance?
Q: Can I have other health coverage?
Q: How and when can I make changes to my employee benefit selections?
Q: How can I know what kind of employee benefits I need?
Q: How much does health care/benefits cost?
Q: How much does my employer contribute to insurance/benefits costs?
Q: If I get new benefits, do I have to switch health care providers?
Q: Who selects my health insurance plan – me or my employer?
Q: What happens to my coverage if I leave the company?
Q: If I work less than full time, can I still get benefits through my employer(s)?
Health Care & Benefits Terminology FAQs—Explaining The Jargon
Q: What is a qualifying life event (QLE)?
Q: What is an eligible dependent?
Q: What is an embedded deductible?
Q: What is co-insurance?
Q: What is out-of-pocket limit?
Q: What is an embedded out-of-pocket maximum?
Q: What is group health insurance?
Q: What is telemedicine?
Q: What is a Limited Purpose FSA (LPFSA)?
Q: What is the difference between an HRA, HRP, HSA, and FSA?
Q: What is the difference between a PPO, an HMO, and an HDHP?
Q: What is ____? (General insurance and benefits definitions) *we covered many of these already; add in additional questions that are specific to your benefits, plans and workforce.
Using Health Insurance and Benefits FAQs
Q: How do deductibles work?
Q: How do co-pays work?
Q: How do out-of-pocket maximums work?
Q: What exclusions typically apply to long-term disability coverage?
Q: After what period of time is the disability considered long-term?
Q: How long can an employee collect short-term disability payments?
Q: What is the process for filing a claim, appeal or reimbursement?
Q: What are my costs when I receive care or fill a prescription?
Q: What are my monthly costs for coverage?
Q: What’s the difference between ‘in-network’ and ‘out-of-network’ care?
Q: How do I make sure my preventive care visit is 100% covered?
Q: Is my current doctor-in-network?
Q: What if a doctor I like is out-of-network?
Q: How can I find providers in my network?
Q: Do I need dental, vision or other coverage?
Q: How much life insurance is typically offered to an employee?
Q: How much can I contribute to my HSA?
Q: How much can I contribute to my FSA?
Q: What are the most common types of health insurance plans?
Q: What happens to the money in my HSA after I turn age 65?
Q: What rights do I have if I lose access to my employer group health insurance coverage?
Q: What if I just need health care coverage for my dependents?
Q: Where do I go if I have questions?
Q: How does ____ work? *This is another popular question format that you can customize for your individual plans, benefits and workforce.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s discuss how you can convey this information in a way that resonates with employees. Remember, your approach to benefits education will depend on your unique workforce!
There is no single way to design and implement a successful program. Instead, have a deep understanding of your workforce demographics and how employee groups generally prefer to be communicated with. Incorporating multiple channels (print or digital benefits guide, educational videos, in-person meetings or digital meetings, etc.) is the best way to resonate with the most employees.
Here are the top five most effective ways to address employee benefits questions.
What sounds more appealing—scanning through a 50+ page document to look up a definition or watching a short, 2-minute video to learn a definition? Though not everyone will agree, studies do show that most people would prefer the video option and that video is a much more effective medium to help people learn and absorb new information.
Video can be housed internally on a benefits website for on-demand reference, can be shared in company emails and text alerts, and even embedded directly into the benefits shopping experience for real-time education (if your benefits enrollment system allows).
2.) Benefits Guide & Website
As noted earlier, there is still a use case for having a complete benefits guide—both print and digital. Some employees want to get into the nitty gritty of their plan details, so taking the time to thoughtfully design a guide will often answer many of the questions these detail-oriented employees have before they reach out to HR for advice.
When designing your guide, balance the written text with visuals—charts, graphs, custom graphics, etc.—to help employees easily navigate and scan the information. Then, include a thorough FAQ section either directly in the guide or online for employees to reference.
Having a stand-alone benefits website can be a great way to reduce the cost and waste of printing physical guides. If you don’t want information to be publicly accessible, you can easily “gate” the website and require a login to view benefits materials. Having a dedicated website makes it easy for employees to access all of their benefits information in one central spot that HR can also easily reference.
3.) Decision Support
Wouldn’t it be great if you could provide personalized benefits recommendations to each and every employee within your organization? Great news—you can!
Decision support is a fairly broad term that refers to technology that guides and support employee benefits decisions. This technology is embedded directly within the benefits shopping experience and can offer real-time assistance with benefits concepts, plan recommendations, and more.
The real difference comes into play with the level of customization that the tool offers. Some platforms offer some basic built-in decision support tools, while companies like Jellyvision offer a very robust and interactive experience that offers more personalization and engagement.
A robust solution is often a better fit for medium to large organizations that offer many benefits; more employees and benefits equals more questions and confusion!
4.) Benefits Meetings
It’s time to put the ‘human’ back in human resources! Some employees might need more assistance than others, or might feel more comfortable initiating a conversation to clear up confusion.
If having meetings sounds like a time-suck, don’t worry; there are a few different ways to approach hosting benefits meetings.
For smaller organizations or companies with a mostly on-site staff, hosting one or a few general benefits meetings can be a great way to discuss high-level topics, including announcing plan and benefits options, changes from the previous year, and general enrollment info. Keep the meeting short—an hour or less—and save some time at the end for a Q&A session.
For larger organizations or companies with a distributed workforce, hosting a virtual benefits meeting is a great option to reach as many employees as possible. There are several platforms that support virtual meetings where employees can listen, ask questions and engage. Another perk of hosting virtual meetings is that they can easily be recorded, shared and watched on-demand at a later time. How’s that for convenience?
A third option, which can be a standalone strategy or an add-on to other approaches, would be to offer dedicated one-on-one meetings with employees. To mitigate the flood of unexpected drop-ins, consider blocking off specific times where employees can schedule a consult.
5.) Answer FAQs Throughout The Year
Questions related to employee benefits aren’t exclusive to open enrollment; in fact, many of the questions about how to use or change benefits pop up later in the year when an employee has to actually use their benefits. Keep your benefits and FAQs top of mind throughout the year in your HR communications.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Highlight a specific benefits tip or testimonial in your internal email newsletter
- Share timely tips throughout the year via text message alerts, like a reminder to get a flu shot in the fall or telehealth benefits before summer travel season
- Host quarterly events (presentation, fair, webinar) where employees can engage with HR and ask questions about benefits. Name your event something fun, like “HR Happy Hour” to emphasize the casual, social nature of the discussion.
These are just a few different channels you can use to tout your benefits throughout the year. Get creative and think of fun, engaging ways to keep benefits and their associated questions top of mind and to let employees know that you’re here to help!
Benefits are hard—but they don’t have to be. A thoughtfully crafted education and communications plan that comprehensively addresses employee questions is the key to helping employees make more informed benefits decisions.
Let’s Answer Some FAQs Together
If you’re ready to take your benefits communication to the next level – let’s talk. PlanSource offers several employee communications solutions for any budget and group size. Contact us below to schedule your no-strings-attached consultation!