Five Things That Confuse Employees Enrolling in Benefits for the First Time…And How Your Team Can Clear Things Up

Jellyvision Benefits Communication, Open Enrollment Communication

benefits confusionEvery year, a bunch of workers just getting their first job or just getting off their parents’ plan have to choose benefits for the first time. Since it’s all brand new to them, they’re especially vulnerable to jargon, and benefits confusion, which can lead to them making less-than-perfect benefits decisions.

Here are some of the questions young professionals are most likely to have when enrolling in benefits for the first time–and how benefits teams can clear things up with better communication:

1. ‘What does all this insurance jargon mean, exactly?’

Deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance, networks, pre-tax savings…these are the sorts of terms that many young people have never encountered before, and are likely to be confused by. What makes things trickier is that they might feel they should know this stuff…and might feel embarrassed to ask. Even though they really should ask.

What benefits teams can do:

Make sure the benefit guide and plan communications has a mini glossary of basic terms easily accessible to the reader that describes what these things are with simple words, not just more jargon. (For some more insights on simplicity in benefits communication, check out these 7 Super-Simple Ways to Improve Your Open Enrollment Emails in 2017.)

2. ‘Is my doctor and/or mental health professional in-network or what?’

For many young people the most pressing question they have related to choosing benefits is if their existing doctor from way back when is in the plan they have the option to choose.

What benefits teams can do:

Wherever it makes sense in emails and or even within the benefits enrollment portal you use, include convenient links to a provider website where employees can check if their doctor is in-network as they’re weighing their options.

3. ‘I don’t get why I’d want the higher deductible plan. Why would I want to pay more when I could pay less?’

Plans with higher deductibles often come with lower monthly premiums, but young employees might not fully understand the consequences of that last part.

What benefits teams can do:

Explain how an HDHP plan involves significantly lower premium costs, which save a person money on an ongoing basis. Share some scenarios that might help someone be able to understand the primary reasons people choose one plan over the other.

4. ‘Is it even worth it for me to get dental and vision insurance?’

Many cost-conscious young professionals wonder if additional benefits are useful or nothing more than a waste of their income. They figure: “I’m healthy and I’ve gotten by without using healthcare for a while…why pay for something I might not use?”

What a benefits team can do:

If there’s a simple way to justify the annual expense for those on the fence, just state it upfront. For example, explain that two teeth cleanings a year might cost about $250 cash, but if that is even close to the cost of the annual premium, it makes way more sense to get coverage, as that investment is likely to ensure coverage of unexpected expenses greater than $250.

5. “What about ‘grey area’ services, like mental health, chiropractors, physical therapy, acupuncture? Are they covered?’

What’s covered or not–and to what degree costs are covered–for services that go beyond annual physicals can be difficult for young workers to understand especially when there are a multitude of plan options to choose from.

What a benefits team can do:

Don’t underestimate the value of a simple FAQ section that tackles some of the common questions around these sorts of services. You might also try to humanize these questions by offering up different hypothetical situations readers can relate to. For example, show the impacts of benefit choices between Jack, a healthy 22-year-old single man vs. Maggie, a 27-year-old type 1 diabetic just starting a family.