Use this five-step checklist—or share it with clients—when switching to a new insurer or health plan. It’s an easy way to help ensure employers are covering the bases for a smooth transition. After all, businesses invest significantly in health care coverage. In 2019, the average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance was over $7,000 for single coverage and $20,000 for family coverage. Add today’s COVID-19 crisis to the mix, and it can bring even more challenges.
By covering these five steps during open enrollment and the early months of coverage with a new health plan, a more successful transition is in your future. In return, you’ll also have more satisfied employees.
1. Communicate clearly and early with employees
Once you’ve selected your new benefit plan, whether with your existing insurer or a new one, inform your employees as soon as possible. Employees appreciate honest and open communications. Knowing about a change of coverage is especially important if any of your employees or their covered dependents are going through medical treatment. They can then reach out to the new insurer and set up any needed authorizations or prescription renewals prior to their actual effective date.
Because COVID-19 has upended traditional onsite work for many employers, emails and virtual meetings are easy yet important ways to keep communicating with employees. Just make sure your subject lines are clear and your meetings have an agenda with time allocated for questions.
2. Share your new plan’s provider directory
Many employers review a health plan’s provider network against their employees’ primary care providers before selecting a plan. More often than not, there is a strong provider match. Regardless of the match you initially receive, share the provider directory network with staff immediately. They’ll want to confirm that their doctors, or their dependents, participate.
Your employees’ rational needs, like finding their doctor, are an important part of their experience when switching plans. But, it’s equally important to consider their emotional needs. You’ll want them to feel confident that they and their families will be OK with the new plan. This also ensures your employees will have time to find new providers before actually needing them.
3. Pass along information about virtual care coverage
Now more than ever, access to telemedicine or virtual care visits is important. Not only are these services convenient, they’re helping to reduce spread of COVID-19. Some insurers and providers have their own online platforms.
No one really knows how COVID-19 will reshape our health care system, but one thing is fairly certain – virtual care will continue to grow. Therefore, it’s especially valuable for employees to know what kind of virtual services are included with your new health plan. Work with your benefits advisor and health plan sales executive to understand all the options and share them with your employees during open enrollment. For example, you may be able to pass along a web link or share a flyer in a paycheck or email to your employees. Reassure them that these options are available now and throughout the plan year.
4. Educate employees about online member portals and apps
A health plan’s member portal, an online personal account, offer easy access the specifics of their new health plan’s coverage. Find out from your benefits advisor or health plan representative the most direct way for new members to sign up for an account. Sometimes, they can even sign up before their effective date begins.
Eighty-one percent of adults in the U.S. own a smartphone, so if you new plan offers a member app, your covered employees can access their personal health benefit information wherever they go. These apps also help members track their cost sharing and access digital member ID cards. Encourage your staff to sign up for their personal health plan accounts, so they’ll always have access to their own benefit information.
Beyond benefit access and telemedicine, insurer member portals also often have extensive content and tools for employee physical and mental well-being. For example, CaféWell, offered to AllWays Health Partners members through WellTok, offers personal health assessments, blogs, live webinars, and even walking challenges.
5. Remind employees about additional health plan features after open enrollment
When in the midst of switching plans, employees are usually focused only on the basics, like finding providers, ensuring uninterrupted care, and knowing new premium costs. Once your employees are enrolled in their plan, it’s time to re-educate them on the additional programs and services they now have access to.
For example, many plans offer a wide range of resources to support healthier living like smoking cessation programs, fitness reimbursements, and personal health coaches available by phone, email or text. If you remind your employees about the plan “extras” once they’re ready to begin using the added benefits, you both will likely get more from your health care dollars.
Onboarding is just the beginning of promoting your health plan’s features to enrolled employees and their covered dependents. Remember, your benefits advisor and health plan account executive are available throughout the year to support you.