How to Help Employees Navigate Health Plan Options for 2021

November 2, 2020

You get it every year: your health insurance policy manual filled with page after page of terminology you do not understand. You face open enrollment every year with a 'pin the tail on the donkey' mentality. If you have trouble understanding your health insurance benefits, then it stands to reason your employees do not understand them any better.

Helping employees navigate their health plan options for 2021 is critical. If there were ever a time to work extra hard to ensure that people understood health insurance, it is now. Both open enrollment and the 2021 health insurance year are expected to be unlike anything we have experienced before.

Rates Are Going Up

The numbers are coming out and they do not look pretty. Despite health insurance companies making record profits this summer, early indications suggest that nearly everyone's rates are going up. They may not go up as high as in previous years, but increase they will.

Higher rates might confuse employees expecting lower premiums for 2021. In light of that, it might be necessary to help workers better understand why rates are going up. In a nutshell, there is still far too much uncertainty in relation to coronavirus to truly understand how much insurance companies will spend next year. They may have saved this year, but they could also spend a lot more in 2021.

High Deductible Plans

Employers looking to save money for the coming year may be tempted to scrap their current plans in favor of a high deductible plan. If so, employees will need access to as much information on the new plan as possible. HR may have to walk some workers through the new plan step-by-step. It is critical that employees understand that high deductible plans come with higher out-of-pocket costs despite lower monthly premiums.

New Technology Tools

Technology is likely to play a bigger role in benefits administration moving forward. For example, online portals where employees can access their benefits are likely to become more common in the coming year. Employees will need at least some training in navigating the portals effectively. Brokers may have to set up training sessions.

Telemedicine and Other Virtual Services

Coronavirus has forced virtual medicine to the forefront in recent months. Now that services like telemedicine are out of the bag, there is no putting them back in. As such, employees will have to be educated on the virtual options available to them. They may need to be educated about how to use telemedicine within the terms of the coverage.

Expanded Mental Health Services

While most employers will not be adding new benefits for 2021, there still seems to be a significant emphasis on mental health services. Such services could prove to be key for the coming year. Thus, educational efforts undertaken by brokers and employers should stress any mental health benefits being offered. The more employees can be encouraged to utilize those benefits, the more helpful these will be over the long term.

It's All about Education

The one thing all of the previous points have in common is education. In other words, the key to navigating changes in health plans is knowledge. The more knowledge employees have, the better able they will be to make the best decisions for the coming year.

As a broker, one of the keys to your success is finding ways to present information that employees can actually use. Keep it straightforward and simple. Do not overwhelm with too much information or information provided in a format that is not easy to understand. If you can effectively communicate, navigation will be easier for employees.

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