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Expanding employee education on healthcare reform

With state health insurance exchanges less than a month away from opening, many federal and state employees are still uninformed about how healthcare reform impacts their own insurance benefits. Although public sector workers are often at the front lines of legislative changes, they still require their employers to provide them with information about how these types of alterations affect them. A new survey by the  Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) found the majority of workers are still unaware of how healthcare reform will influence their employer-sponsored insurance and unsure as to if they should enter the state health exchanges when they open for enrollment on Oct. 1.

Growing need for worker education

According to the MBGH survey, the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on employee benefits is the leading concern for the majority of employers, both public and private. The survey received responses from more than 40 organizations, finding many businesses are already estimating they will move to high deductible health plans within the next four years to help mitigate costs. In fact, 70 percent of employers said their workers who chose to obtain health insurance through the marketplaces will not receive salary raises as a result. With the state exchanges about to open, employees need to know the pros and cons of participating in the marketplaces. 

In fact, of those employers who responded to the survey, 64 percent said their workers’ leading concerns over ACA were how it will impact their benefits. Sixty-three percent reported their employees wanted to know if their out-of-pocket expenses will increase and 53 percent asked for information about the marketplaces.

Other than their employer and the marketplaces themselves, there are often not many sources for workers to gain information on insurance plans. If their employer decides to prohibit them from receiving a raise because they chose to receive coverage elsewhere, many workers may even feel discouraged to look for the information. Navigators, or those professionals trained to guide enrollees through the marketplace, have come under scrutiny by state lawmakers. According to USA Today, questions over navigator training and consumers’ data privacy may be an issue in how the exchanges will work, making it increasingly important that employers train workers about healthcare reform.

Providing employees with information
Many workers may not be able to gain the information they need to make an informed decision about their health insurance if their employer does not provide education about how the ACA will impact their insurance benefits or if there aren’t enough navigators to answer all of the questions employees have about healthcare reform.

However, the MBGH survey found many employers are starting to understand the importance of providing employee education about the marketplaces. Seventy-one percent of employers did respond they are focusing on employee ACA education, with 59 percent saying they are informing workers about benefit design options and 49 percent are looking to provide staff with wellness provisions incentives. 

Public sector employers should address workers now about how the exchanges will impact their care and if cuts may need to be made. Even if public employers have a specialized insurance plan, Larry Boress, president and CEO of MBGH, said they should pay attention to worker education.

“There are key questions employees have that need to be addressed now, such as the status of their current benefits and their eligibility to obtain tax credits and subsidies through the new marketplaces,” Boress said. “Most employer efforts are focused in these areas for the upcoming rollouts this fall.”

If workers do not receive the information they require to make an informed decision about their own insurance, public employers can see issues in the future with employee compensation negotiations, making healthcare reform education essential. 

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Carolyn Wonders
Carolyn Wonders
In a world of constant interruption, regular onslaught of emails and ever increasing bids for our attention, schools, cities and counties are finding it harder than ever to connect with employees. That’s when we call in Carolyn Wonders. Carolyn heads up NIS’ Marketing Team, who creates and executes employee benefit communications for NIS’ growing list of clients.

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