When it comes to health care for employees, it might seem like the ultimate lose-lose situation. The escalating cost puts employers under stress, and employees never really feel as if they have good enough coverage or low enough deductibles. Of course, it would be great to just pay higher premiums and buy the most comprehensive insurance possible. But this is expensive and also unlikely to work. What if the solution was something else?
The best way to improve how your employees feel about their health insurance is to empower them to be better consumers of health care in general. Doing it requires thinking a little differently about your role in offering them health care. It isn't enough to send an annual benefit summary brochure and remind them about open enrollment. Offering health care insurance doesn't have to be a passive activity.
So what else can you do? Here are three great ways to help your employees become more empowered health-care consumers:
Translate the Double Talk
One of the biggest problems with most health-care plans, as with many services, is that the details about what the plan includes can be nearly impossible to understand. It's great if you happen to have a plan that does a good job explaining benefits, but if you don't, you can demand summaries of the plan and simplified descriptions. Summary sheets, lists, infographics and charts are all valuable ways to better explain coverage to employees using plain language. If your health-care plan doesn't already do that—or even if it does—making sure employees get these simplified descriptions are the ideal first step in helping empower them as better health-care consumers.
RELATED: 4 Apps That Can Make You and Your Employees Healthier
Recommend New Startups and Tools
One big sign of hope in the health-care industry is just how many startups are devoting themselves to changing some aspect of health care. For example, Simplee is one example of an easy-to-use online tool that can help your employees track their spending on medical expenses. ZocDoc or BetterDoctor are two leading sites that help you find a doctor for your needs in your area. And GoodRX is an amazingly useful resource that lets you type in any prescription medication and find out which pharmacy has the best price for it. Each of these tools focuses on improving an element of health care. As an employer, circulating information to help employees learn about these additional tools can help them get better care, save money and take ownership of their own health information in the process. (If you're interested in learning more about health-care startups, one great place to start is by looking at the list of companies partnering with startup incubator RockHealth.)
RELATED: Employee Wellness Programs Vs. Paid Sick Days
Celebrate the Empowered Patient Mindset
In the past several years, an increasing number of powerful books have been written about patient empowerment. Each of these can offer a valuable reminder to your employees of just how important it is for them to take ownership of their own health care, as well as real insights and examples of how to do it. Let Patients Help, The Empowered Patient and How To Get Out Of The Hospital Alive are three popular books on the topic, which all offer useful lessons for anyone on navigating the health-care system. Any could make an excellent addition to an employee welcome packet, or even resources to have on hand in an "employee library" at your main office.
No matter what you do, the biggest benefit of helping your employees to be more empowered about health care is that they take more advantage of the health-care options you're providing, and feel better about the value they're getting from them.
Read more articles on health care.
Rohit Bhargava is one of the world’s leading voices on creating more human companies and author of the recent bestselling book Likeonomics. He has spent 10 years leading marketing strategy for some of the largest brands in the world and is currently co-writing a book called ePatient 2015 spotlighting 15 new trends defining the patient of the future.