Communicating Health Care Reform to Employees

March 4, 2013 ( – Even if health care reform is a “nonevent” for your company, your employees may still have questions.

As provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) come into effect in 2014, employees will likely have many questions about the public exchanges, as well as the terminology associated with the reform. “That makes it important for you to decide now how you can best get that information to employees,” Jackie Cuthbert, principal at Mercer, said during a company webinar.

Some estimates say call volume from employees is expected to increase 50% once the ACA kicks in, Cuthbert added.

When the ACA provisions go into effect, employees will inevitably receive information from the media, friends and family. “When you add your own messaging as an employer … You’ll see the recipe for overload and confusion,” Cuthbert said. To ease the message overload, Mercer suggests employers make a “microsite” available as soon as possible that provides employees updates about health care reform. The site can also be used as a reference for company call centers and human resources teams, Cuthbert added.

Mercer suggests the site also include a health care reform timeline and an option on the site for employees to subscribe to updates. In addition, the website could include a “words to know” section—after all, health care reform will bring new terminology. “We would encourage you to be proactive,” Cuthbert said.

For employers that do not want to create their own site—or do not have the resources to do so—Mercer has created its own health care reform website, which will be available for purchase in the next few weeks.

Mercer also suggests employers remain flexible and plan their annual enrollment early.

Because of health care reform, employees may be bombarded with mail, and open enrollment materials may inadvertently be thrown away. “So if you haven’t used electronic communications in the past, you may want to consider that option for open enrollment in 2014,” suggests Donna Jaffee, principal at Mercer.

Despite the stress that health care reform may bring to some employers, there is a silver lining: David Slavney, partner at Mercer, said the reform will create more employee awareness about plan design and features. Slavney compared health care reform to the shift in the retirement industry from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) plans, which forced participants to take responsibility for their own retirement savings.

Health care reform also helps employers illustrate and remarket the value they provide, he said.