This year, thousands of Generation Z employees new to the workforce and younger Millennials just getting off their parents’ plan will choose their benefits for the first time.

Here are 7 of the most urgent questions they’re likely to have–and some advice on how best to craft your answers.


1. What’s the difference between my deductible, my co-insurance, and my out-of-pocket maximum?

Newer health care users will understandably get bungled up about how these three thresholds relate to one another. They might wonder, for example: “If my co-insurance is 20% and I get a doctor’s bill at the beginning of the year for $150, do I pay 20% of that and that goes towards my deductible? Or: “Do I pay the full amount until I get to my deductible?” Or: “Once I’ve reached my out-of-pocket maximum, does that really, truly mean I don’t pay for anything at all, not even co-pays or whatever, the rest of the year?”

What benefits teams can do:

Don’t just provide definitions of these terms–lay out some scenarios that show how they work in action. (This simple scenario on is a good starting point.) Keep in mind that confirming what most employees suspect is true, even if it seems obvious, is just as important as explaining the tricky stuff.

2. Is my existing doctor in-network? And if not, how much more money will I have to pay to keep her?

Many benefits newbies will prefer to stick with the health care providers they had on their parents’ insurance, but won’t be fully aware of the costs they might incur if their favorite doctor isn’t in-network. What will sticking to their current health care providers end up costing them?

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. And, again, present scenarios that show the difference between what someone with ongoing regular health care appointments would have to pay to an in-network provider vs. an out-of-network provider over the course of a year.

3. I don’t get why I’d want a plan with a higher deductible. 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 often don’t know that or understand what that actually means.

What benefits teams can do:

Explain how an HDHP plan involves significantly lower premium costs, which saves a person money on an ongoing basis. Explain why someone who generally doesn’t use much health care versus someone who will likely use a lot over the course of a year might choose one type of plan over the other.

(Get more tips on communicating benefits effectively to your youngest workers here.)

4. I have NO money. Is it even worth it for me to get dental and vision insurance?

Many cost-conscious young professionals wonder if getting additional benefits is money well spent. 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, say so 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. I signed up for benefits when I got hired earlier this year. Do I need to do this all again during OE…or am I good to go?

You’re likely to have a bunch of people wondering about this, especially if you’re a company that’s had a big hiring year.

What a benefits team can do:

Add a call-out section to your open enrollment announcement emails and other resources making clear what’s expected from newly hired employees or not. Or send a reminder to all new hires separately. 

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

What’s covered—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 multiple options to choose from. Also, expect to hear questions about how much it might cost them to stick with their (now, out-of-network) physical therapist or psychiatrist.

What a benefits team can do:

Don’t underestimate the value of a simple FAQ section that tackles some of these common questions. 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.

7. How much should I put aside in my FSA or HSA if I have no idea how much I’ll probably pay for healthcare next year?

If employees haven’t really kept tabs of how much they spend on health care every year in the past, they might be totally at a loss to figure out how much they should set aside for health care.

What a benefits team can do:

Offering a helpful benefits decision support tool like ALEX is a great way to go, of course. Or at the very least, offer them a link to a cost calculator that will allow them to think through their recurring and less regular health care needs more carefully. Also, if you offer both an FSA and HSA, make sure to clearly explain the important differences; even experienced employees often mix them up. (Get more tips on boosting HSA engagement and contributions here.)

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