Potomac Companies incorporates strategy, software, and service as the core of our broker-consultant relationship.[i] We use powerful analytics software, along with our CEO’s analytics expertise, to model renewals, new coverage, and funding approaches. Our signature KISS – Keep It Simple Solution™ program takes technological and administrative approaches to minimizing errors and maximizing efficiencies in HR. Service is the keystone of our mission, whether it is appealing claims or answering questions about HSAs. We are always available to answer questions, but we start with thorough education, from decisionmakers prior to a Broker of Record, to employees at open enrollment, to HR and finance teams as plans and needs change.
According to a 2018 Alight Solutions report, 50 percent of employees surveyed said they understand their benefits, compared to 77 percent understanding in 2015.[ii] In the 2018 State of Employee Benefits survey, 37 percent of respondents indicated their employer provided no education on benefits.[iii] Granted, benefits and health insurance has become more complex in three years, with regulatory changes, increased high deductible health plan (HDHP) implementation, and the changing individual mandate.[iv] This increased complexity, however, can be mitigated through rigorous employee education and judicious use of human capital management technology. When employees do not understand benefits (and perks, such as career development and recognition programs), they tend not to “appreciate their value” and are more likely to seek employment elsewhere.[v] Part of the issue in understanding benefits is terminology. Less than 4 percent of respondents to a Policy Genius survey in 2016 could correctly define co-pay, deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and co-insurance.[vi] One of the direst consequences of healthcare illiteracy (depending on your perspective as payor or payee) is avoiding care. Researchers in a 2018 national survey of 506 insured adults found approximately 30 percent of respondents “postponed or avoided care altogether because of costs,” and these respondents were not aware of the 21 preventative, no-cost health services covered under the Affordable Care Act.[vii]
Employee communication and messaging are important components of Potomac’s overall strategy. We employ a three-pronged approach to employee education: webinars, face-to-face meetings, and hotlines. To help employees and their families choose the most appropriate plans and to explain how to use those plans most effectively, we can schedule one-on-one meetings. Messaging and the means of communication are based on the employee population, corporate culture, technological proficiency, any benefit changes, employee or management-identified need for training (examples: HSA use, prescription management, online resources, and new regulatory changes to the ACA). Our job as a broker/consultant is never finished, since there is always something new in the employee benefits world to teach laypeople. Ensuring your employees are confident in their ability to use their insurance, find providers, and estimate care is our highest priority and the best service we can provide.
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[i] Alex Tolbert, “Make Sure Your Broker is Offering These 3 Things — or Reconsider Your Partnership,” Employee Benefit News, 20 November 2018, https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/make-sure-your-broker-is-offering-these-3-things-or-reconsider-your-partnership?
[ii] Marlene Satter, Only Half of Employees Feel They Understand Their Benefits,” Benefits Pro, 19 December 2018, https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/12/19/only-half-of-employees-feel-they-understand-their/
[iii] Paul Fronstin, Lisa Greenwald, “The State of Employee Benefits: Findings from the 2018 Health and Workplace Benefits Survey,” Employee Benefit Research Institute, 10 January 2019, via MCOL @Employer Newsletter, 18 January 2019
[iv] Allison Inserro, “Enrollment in High-Deductible Health Plans Continues to Grow,” The American Journal of Managed Care, 9 August 2018, https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/enrollment-in-highdeductible-health-plans-continues-to-grow
[v] Satter, “Only Half of Employees Feel They Understand Their Benefits.”
[vi] Dan Gingiss, “4 Terms that Americans Don’t Understand, But the Healthcare Industry Uses Anyway,” Forbes, 6 November 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dangingiss/2018/11/06/4-terms-that-americans-dont-understand-but-the-healthcare-industry-uses-anyway/#7be1f2687e56
[vii] Lisa Rapaport, “Confusion About Health Insurance Plans May Lead to Avoiding Care,” Reuters, 21 November 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-insurance-literacy/confusion-about-health-insurance-plans-may-lead-to-avoiding-care-idUSKCN1NQ2GE