Maybe baffled is a strong word, but the fact remains: American employees care deeply about the quality of their health care, but they don’t know as much about their insurance plans as they’d like to.
This is according to a new survey from online HR software provider BambooHR, which found that, while 66 percent of employees say health care benefits influence how they feel about their job, 63 percent of employees say they don’t understand the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it may (or may not) impact them very well.
This lack of knowledge has led to a lot of confusion and discomfort for employees. Many employees aren’t sure how to properly use certain aspects of their plans; one in three report an “increase in stress at home, work, or both since the ACA went into effect,” according to BambooHR.
This is where you come in, HR: it’s likely that your employees are looking to you to help them better understand their health care plans and options. In BambooHR’s survey, 40 percent of respondents said HR “should educate them about changes” — the most popular option.
To learn a little more about the survey, I corresponded with BambooHR’s CEO and cofounder Ben Peterson. Below is a transcript of our interview, followed by the full infographic from BambooHR.
Recruiter.com: The study illustrates “the disconnect between employees deeply caring about the quality of their insurance and not obtaining the knowledge to reinforce those feelings.” How do we account for this disconnect? What’s causing it?
Ben Peterson: The government — just kidding. Kind of. Political opinions aside, we all know the importance of great health care options to employees. And no one has it exactly figured out. Laws keep changing, solutions keep changing, costs keep changing, and it’s almost impossible to model and find clear, concise answers to explain exactly what’s going on. Employers are equally or more challenged than individuals to get it right. It feels like a perpetual cycle of research, find answers, change, research, find answers, change. Unfortunately, this tumultuous cycle results in employee frustration and dissatisfaction.
RC: Has the introduction of the ACA caused more confusion, or has this confusion been around for a while?
BP: Health care has always been a bit confusing, now just more so. If you look at the history of ACA, it’s riddled with technical challenges, implementation challenges, complexity challenges, and more. I feel that ultimately there will be monumental progress that will benefit employees, but it will take time.
RC: Employees are uncomfortable with a number of aspects of their health care plans, such as submitting claims and how their deductibles work. Where does this discomfort arise from? Is it connected to the lack of knowledge?
BP: I think lack of understanding leads naturally to some anxiety. The issue here feels magnified for multiple reasons, such as the complexity and the fact that it’s taking forever to get it done with no clear end in sight.
RC: What role can HR play in helping employees better understand their health care options and plans? What are some specific things the department can do?
BP: HR needs to pay the price to understand health care and ACA. Become an expert and counsel your executive team on the best options for your employees and company. Make a choice. Be able to clearly define the company’s choice and why it was made. Then, clearly articulate that choice and the reasons behind it to your employees. Plan to be a resource. Give your employees the support system [they need] as they begin to realize that a burden of understanding also falls to them. Company update meetings or Q&A sessions are a simple start.