new HDHP

Three Easy Ways To Help Employees Painlessly Adjust to Their New HDHP

Mark Rader Benefits Communication

Let’s imagine a thirty-three-year-old guy named Terrance.

For the last eight years, Terrance has had PPO coverage. Paid his $20 co-pay every time he went to the doctor. Knew the drill. Then this fall, Terrance realized his company’s HDHP was a better value. So he signed up.

Now it’s January 2015, a new plan year. And suddenly Terrance’s theoretical new HDHP isn’t so theoretical anymore.

He needs to figure out how to use it. He’s got to create some brand-new health care habits. And it’s likely – since Terrance experiences real human emotions like the rest of us – he’s feeling a little remorseful and a lot confused.

So what’s behind those feelings? And what can your benefits department do about them?

Here are some geeky insights that might help us figure it out.

1. Terrance is a little remorseful…why?

According to the theory of loss aversion, people feel losses twice as powerfully as they experience gains. So a person who loses $50 loses twice as much happiness as a person who finds $50 will gain. Or–in Terrance’s case–he may be feeling twice as frustrated about losing his old plan as he feels satisfied about being in a new, more cost-effective plan.

What you can do: Be sensitive to this as you’re communicating one-on-one or in emails. You may be super jazzed and informed about the new plan; it’s your job to be. But Terrance and his peers, as overwrought as it sounds, might still be a bit in mourning over the loss of something they understood. Especially right now, when the new plan feels like 100% hassle, 0% helpful.

2. Terrance is confused…why? (Part 1)

Well, common sense tells us that when you haven’t done something before, you’re likely to be confused about exactly what to do. No duh, duh-head.

But consider this: Terrance might be more confused than he needs to be because the information you’ve provided on how to, say, sign up for a HSA, or get reimbursed for a bill doesn’t provide him the chance to learn experientially. In other words, you’re telling him what to do in words only, when maybe you could be showing him by using other tactics.

What you can do: Go beyond just text-based HDHP instructional emails. Include screen shots with important items circled. Share a video of someone actually going through a tricky process. Or, even better, if possible, share a video of someone going through the process, narrating the steps. The more you can make Terrance feel he’s experiencing the right way to do something, the better.

3. Terrance is confused…why? (Part 2)

Studies focused on education have shown that when people feel high levels of anxiety or stress, they’re less able to comprehend things they would more easily understand when they’re feeling relaxed and centered.

If Terrance and his colleagues are struggling to grasp certain concepts, consider how their fear of the unknown and the stress that causes might be a barrier to them taking in new information.

What you can do: Acknowledge–in all your communications – that figuring out how to use a new plan is tricky for everybody. Remind Terrance and his colleagues they aren’t alone…and a bit of that anxiety goes away.

Also, refer them to your carefully crafted helper-tools, but assure them that they can come to you whenever with questions, and that there are no dumb questions. It’s easy to underestimate the fear people (especially smart people, like the ones you work with) have about seeming dumb. And when people are hesitant to reach out because of that fear, they remain anxious about what they might be doing wrong.