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Enlist employees’ help to win the health-cost battle

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in Employee Benefits Program,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: Strong communication with employees is a vital part of controlling health care insurance costs.

Benefit: Employees who understand the forces driving up their premiums are more likely to play an active role in helping control them.

Action: Spread the facts about health costs, and what employees can do, using employee newsletters, your intranet, training and memos.

Tired of facing double-digit health insurance spikes each year (and the resulting grief from employees)? Stop going it alone. Prod employees to play a more active role in helping control health care costs.

The key step: Communicate the true costs of health care coverage to employees and sell them on becoming health care consumers who keep an eye on the bottom line.

Here are five ways to achieve that goal:

  1. Stress the facts. Traditionally, organizations have been reluctant to share hard financial data about health costs with employees. So employees have given little thought to how they use, and in some cases, abuse, health care.
    Better way: Give employees the full picture so they can make better decisions.
    Example: Hanna Andersson, a children's clothing retailer, includes benefit cost figures in the monthly financial status report sent to all company employees.
  2. Spread the message. Include articles on health costs in your employee newsletter or on your intranet. Send out quarterly "benefit news" memos or hold a brown-bag lunch on health care topics. Don't forget that you also need to inform spouses and families. Send information directly to employee's homes.
  3. Involve managers and supervisors. HR can't provide the only voice on controlling health costs. Managers and supervisors have to chime in, as well, to reinforce the message.
    Example: Grocery chain Kroger Co. holds periodic meetings for store managers and department heads to review health costs and the trends driving those costs. Managers then pass down the information to employees at in-store meetings.
  4. Ask your insurance provider for help. Take full advantage of the wellness and disease-management information and educational services your insurance provider or third-party administrator offers, and encourage employees to do so, as well. Example: Bellarmine University in Kentucky offered employees $50 gift certificates for subscribing to Humana's online benefits-tracking service. The service updates employees on their use of health services (and the cost), plus suggests how they can reduce those costs through wellness programs, generic medications, etc.
  5. Request feedback. Use surveys and focus groups to find out if employees are hearing your message. Ask for feedback about benefit-plan changes, and include employee representatives on benefit-planning teams.
    Example: The University of Louisville surveyed employees to test how knowledgeable they were about the issues and factors affecting health care costs.

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