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This Past Open Enrollment Season’s Most Frequently Asked Questions

David Rook

If you’re like most HR departments around the country, you’re on the tail end of taking a bit of a breather in Q1, seemingly having just completed yet another fall open enrollment.

Our benefit hotline specialists fielded thousands of calls in Q4 of last year. We thought it might be helpful if we recapped some of the more popular questions and answers, some of which change from year-to-year while others are perennial favorites.

As you might expect, this year we fielded a considerable number of questions about High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). We also took a considerable number of calls on Medicare, Limited Purpose FSAs and other hot topics.

Distributing these FAQs to your workforce or repurposing them in next year’s open enrollment communications and employee benefits guides should go a long way to helping reduce call volume into your HR department.

FREE GUIDE: The Top 55 Open Enrollment FAQs

Listed below are the first 15 on our list. You can access 55 more by clicking here to receive our downloadable guide.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Communications, Employee Communications, Administration, Account Management

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How Cell Phone Use at Work is Shaping Company Policies

Jeff Griffin

Now that nearly every adult has a smartphone, employers are realizing the need to develop policies that address cell phone use at work. As useful and helpful as our handheld devices are (and we do use them for everything), they can be distracting, and at times, a security risk.

In many ways, employers have helped foster this problem. Many employers expect their workforce to always be available, which makes it hard to tell employees they can’t use their cell phones at certain times or in certain settings at work. It might sound a bit hypocritical of us to make such demands and then tell employees they’re on their phones too much. All of us — from the top of the organization down — have gotten so used to a device in our hands that it gets admittedly difficult to put it down.

Cell Phone Use at Work and How it Affects Productivity

A survey conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam found that employees spend about 56 minutes per day using their cell phones for personal business while at work. While managers surveyed assumed their employees were looking at social media, many employees said they were actually reading and responding to personal emails. In addition, 58 percent of workers reported using their cell phones to visit websites that were blocked or banned by their employer.

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Topics: Communications, Company Culture, Employee Communications, employee culture, Culture

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3 Great TED Talks in The Era of Consumer-Driven Healthcare

David Rook

3 Great TED Talks in The Era of Consumer-Driven Healthcare (CDHC)

Initial indicators suggest that consumer-directed health plans are indeed succeeding on several fronts; primary care engagement is up, trips to the emergency room are down, health savings account (HSA) balances are rising, and most importantly, health care spending is falling by 5 to 14 percent. But there's a big roadblock to CDHC / CDHP adoption: rampant consumer confusion.

That was the chief point from Harry Gottlieb, during a keynote address last Wednesday at the Human Resource Executive Health and Benefits Leadership Conference.

At least two of the pitfalls with Consumer-Driven Health Care (CDHP) and Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHP) are the rampant growth in options and the fundamental belief that humans make intuitive, rational decisions. If only that were true!

So what can we do about it? Fortunately, there are a multitude of behavioral studies to help guide our understanding of this phenomenon, as well as lay out a roadmap for us to follow to facilitate better decision making.

Here are what we, as the JP Griffin Group, consider to be three of the most relevant, informative and actionable TED Talks on audience segmentation, behavioral economics and the cognitive limitations of humans when faced with choice.

#1) "Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce", by Malcolm Gladwell

Struggling to find the perfect medical plan and perfectly optimized employee benefits portfolio for your entire work force? This TED Talk makes the case that we are not one homogenous group of consumers, no matter what the category for consideration, be it coffee, soda, healthcare, financial services and even spaghetti sauce. The concept is presented in a highly entertaining fashion by one of the best storytellers of our day, Malcolm Gladwell, author of such best selling books as Outliers, The Tipping Point, Blink and other works that focus on the unpredictable things that people do in the course of their normal lives. Gladwell sets out to explain how a guy by the name of Howard Moskowitz reinvented tomato sauce – a challenge given to him by the Campbell Soup Company when he was asked to create the “perfect” sauce.

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Topics: Communications, Innovation, Behavioral Psychology, Consumer Driven Healthcare

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Stay Compliant: Notices to Include in Your Annual Employee Benefits Open Enrollment Materials

David Rook

Whenever an employer offers a group health plan, it's imperative to properly administer all of the health plan notices required under the DOL, PPACA, ERISA, COBRA and HIPAA. Failure to comply with these directives can lead to costly penalties.

So when it comes to your employee benefits communications this open enrollment season, how confident are you in providing your employees (and their dependents) with all of these legally-required notices in the time and manner in which the law specifies?

Savvy employers can generally minimize both the administrative burden and cost of sending these notices by simply including them with the health plan enrollment materials they distribute each year. Although yearly distribution is not required for most federally mandated health plan notices, employers should consider including some of them with enrollment materials anyway. Doing so may cure any previous failure to give the notice, and it demonstrates an employer’s good faith effort to apprise plan participants of their rights.

Here is a rundown of the notices you might wish to include in your open enrollment communication efforts. Note that these notices, in general, apply to all types of group health plans, including both fully-insured and self-funded group health insurance plans. That said, some of the requirements vary by the type of health plan offered as well as the size of your company.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Communications, Compliance

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Employee Handbook Basics

David Rook

Employee Handbook Basics

Understanding the basic fundamentals of employee handbooks can help keep employees on track while also keeping companies out of hot water. In this blog post we set out to answer questions such as why employers should have an employee handbook, what it should include, and why legal reviews are so critical.

Why Have An Employee Handbook?

The purpose of an employee handbook is to have one resource everyone in the company can go to for an explanation of the company policies. The handbook should record information on what the employer expects from the employees and what employees can expect from the employer. It is an easy-to-understand reference written to provide employees with answers to basic questions such as leave policies and more.

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Topics: Communications, Compliance

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Three Steps to Dramatically Improving Your Employee Benefits Communications

David Rook

Three Steps to Dramatically Improving Your Employee Benefits Communications

Today's legislative and administrative healthcare complexities only exacerbate the challenges most companies face when trying to market employee benefits to their workforces.

Let's face it, it's complicated (and boring) stuff. Just the thought of discussing medical, dental and vision insurance, not to mention disability coverage, life insurance, 401Ks and FSAs, usually has employees running for the exits (or at least checking their smartphones during the all-important Open Enrollment meeting).

Faced with this challenge, best-in-class employee communication practices really matter.

Our previous blog post focused solely on how employers can do a better job when it comes to branding their employee benefits programs.  This post (and much moreso, our free downloadable eBook) provides specific and actionable advice on how to maximize employee communications planning, construction and timing. 

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Topics: Communications

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3 Great TED Talks in The Era of Choice & Consumer-Driven Healthcare (CDHC)

David Rook

3 Great TED Talks in The Era of Choice & Consumer-Driven Healthcare (CDHC)

Initial indicators suggest that consumer-directed health plans are indeed succeeding on several fronts; primary care engagement is up, trips to the emergency room are down, health savings account (HSA) balances are rising, and most importantly, health care spending is falling by 5 to 14 percent. But there's a big roadblock to CDHC / CDHP adoption: rampant consumer confusion.

That was the chief point from Harry Gottlieb, during a keynote address last Wednesday at the Human Resource Executive Health and Benefits Leadership Conference.

At least two of the pitfalls with Consumer-Driven Health Care (CDHP) and Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHP) are the rampant growth in options and the fundamental belief that humans make intuitive, rational decisions. If only that were true!

So what can we do about it? Fortunately, there are a multitude of behavioral studies to help guide our understanding of this phenomenon, as well as lay out a roadmap for us to follow to facilitate better decision making.

Here are what we, as the JP Griffin Group, consider to be three of the most relevant, informative and actionable TED Talks on audience segmentation, behavioral economics and the cognitive limitations of humans when faced with choice.

#1) "Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce", by Malcolm Gladwell

Struggling to find the perfect medical plan and perfectly optimized employee benefits portfolio for your entire work force? This TED Talk makes the case that we are not one homogenous group of consumers, no matter what the category for consideration, be it coffee, soda, healthcare, financial services and even spaghetti sauce. The concept is presented in a highly entertaining fashion by one of the best storytellers of our day, Malcolm Gladwell, author of such best selling books as Outliers, The Tipping Point, Blink and other works that focus on the unpredictable things that people do in the course of their normal lives. Gladwell sets out to explain how a guy by the name of Howard Moskowitz reinvented tomato sauce – a challenge given to him by the Campbell Soup Company when he was asked to create the “perfect” sauce.

Read More
Topics: Communications

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Three Branding Strategies for Your Employee Benefits

David Rook

Three Branding Strategies for Your Employee Benefits

When we think about brands, we tend to think of strong global icons like Coke, Under Armour, Disney and BMW.  While it might seem odd to approach your employee benefits in the same manner, your employees are making a commitment of time and effort to learn about and participate in what programs you’re offering, so branding matters.

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Topics: Communications

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