Why Healthcare Literacy Should Be a Top Concern for Employers (And What to Do About It)

These days, offering a group health plan for your employees is crucial for reducing turnover, keeping employees engaged, and attracting talent. But offering benefits is a huge investment for employers, making it an often stressful piece of running a business. Like any significant investment, group health plans become easier to implement when you can bring in a solid return on investment.

One major factor contributing to your ROI is the percentage of employees who actually use the benefits you offer. A chief component of whether they use their benefits relies on their ability to understand their plan. Unfortunately, people often struggle to understand their benefits—in fact, only 4-14% of adults have a basic grasp of health insurance. In the US, a whopping nine out of ten adults have difficulty using health information. Imagine the ratio of your employees who feel comfortable navigating their benefits plan and understanding the benefits available. Statistically, it reflects these numbers.

Lack of healthcare literacy is an epidemic that affects the health and wellbeing of employees. Lack of understanding leads employees to miss out on accessing and using their benefits, which has a direct correlation on their health outcomes.

For the sake of your employees’ wellbeing and for the value of your investment, it’s crucial you take steps to help improve your employees’ ability to understand, navigate, and use their health plans.

Use plain language

When communicating with your employees about their health plan, make sure you avoid healthcare jargon and confusing terms. Offer explanations for terms they might come across so they can better navigate unfamiliar language. Healthcare.gov offers an excellent glossary of terms and definitions you can share with your employees. Also, read through any documents your provider will offer your employees and familiarize yourself with them. If you find yourself having questions, chances are your employees will have those same questions.

Be proactive in helping employees find clear answers, for the easier it is for them to understand what they’re reading, the more likely they will use their benefits.

Communicate often

If you want your employees to take full advantage of their health plan, it’s important that it’s kept top of mind for them—this means making sure you’re not only communicating about benefits around open enrollment/renewal season.

Talking about benefits just once a year isn’t going to help your employees stay engaged with their health plan. Consider adding communications about their benefits in internal newsletters, employee reviews, and quarterly meetings. Keep the conversation going year-round, so health benefits always stay at the top of their mind.

Tailor your message

When talking about your benefits plan, create conversations and messages that center on the differing wants and needs of your employee population.

  • Have employees who are of the age where they may be considering starting a family? Make sure to remind them of your family planning benefits.
  • Is there an emotionally challenging situation your employees might be facing? (Say, a pandemic?) Remind them of their mental health benefits.
  • Have employees who are traveling? Don’t forget to highlight their access to your telehealth benefits.

Whatever your health plan offers, it’s crucial to understand how it addresses your employees’ needs so that you can create meaningful and engaging conversations based on specific concerns.

Get the message out

You won’t be able to overturn healthcare illiteracy overnight. Still, with a tailored, clear, and thoughtful communication year-round, you’ll be able to affect your employees’ engagement with their health benefits. And through that effort, you’ll empower them to preserve their health and wellbeing. When in doubt, talk to your benefits advisor for suggestions on how to increase healthcare literacy within your company and in turn, increase ROI on your investment.


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by fizkes