Employees Need to Become Health Literate in Today’s Workplace

by Sharlyn Lauby on March 5, 2013

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is sponsored by ALEX®, The Jellyvision Lab’s virtual benefits counselor. Available to over one million people in almost 100 organizations nationwide, ALEX is proud to report a 100% customer renewal rate. This is a very cool product! Jellyvision also makes the award-winning party game YOU DON’T KNOW JACK. I hope you enjoy the post.)

Don’t be like me. I learned about my health insurance the wrong way. I learned about it lying in a hospital bed. Actually, my parents went to my company’s benefits department and learned about my benefits then came to the hospital and told me how they worked.

ALEX, Jellyvision, health insurance, insurance, Affordable Care Act, benefits, Jellyvision Labs

The time to understand how your health insurance works and what it covers isn’t when you need it. I was lucky. My company fully paid for my coverage so I just took it. But that was 25 years ago. Today most companies ask employees to share in the cost of the premium. So making choices about health insurance is a big decision that can potentially have big consequences. Even if you don’t have something catastrophic happen like I did, health insurance is important.

That’s why I was a little surprised to hear that 89% of all employees select the same benefits options every year.  Really?! I would have expected, given all the attention on the rising cost of health insurance and care, that employees would be spending more time doing comparison shopping.

Then it occurred to me. Since my accident, I’ve always made it a priority to understand how my health insurance works. And being in human resources, I’ve always needed to know the lingo. But I can see how many employees might struggle with it. For example, despite all the articles and information available in the market, understanding and awareness of health spending accounts (HSAs) is still very low.

Is it possible we need to find a new way to communicate benefits to our employees?

Let me introduce you to ALEX, your company’s virtual benefits counselor. ALEX is available to have a fun and engaging conversation with your employees about your unique health insurance program. I got a chance to see ALEX in action recently, and he’s an impressive addition to any organization.

ALEX knows how to explain benefits in common, everyday language. Remember the comment I made about the low understanding of HSA accounts? Well, ALEX offers employees explanations for health insurance terminology (let’s call it health literacy). And employees need it.  For instance, the people that make ALEX shared with me that only 28% of his visitors – when offered the chance to hear an explanation –say they already know how HSAs work. That means 72% don’t know how they work.

ALEX also works 24/7/365 without overtime pay! ALEX works from the cloud, and he can be launched from the privacy of a home computer or on a work laptop. Employees are able to access a special, complementary ALEX app via their iOS and Android mobile devices – and the app is available in both in English and Spanish.

ALEX is consistent. No more worrying about “Did I remember to tell employees about this exclusion or this exception?” ALEX gives employees the information they need based upon the answers they provide about their health care needs.

Don’t think of ALEX as just a benefits counselor at enrollment time or during your new hire orientation. ALEX is an “anytime resource” for employees in need of a benefits conversation. Because benefits are more than just a “nice to have” these days. Employees often make employment decisions based upon benefits, and when they are happy with their benefits – they’re less likely to leave your company.

Employees who are very satisfied with benefits are nearly three times as likely to say they are very satisfied with their jobs and less likely to plan to leave. (Source: 2012 MetLife Benefits Trends Study)

65% of U.S. employees say they are “extremely” or “very likely” to leave their job in the next 12 months if their company communicates about benefits only at open enrollment or new hire enrollment. (Source: 2012 Aflac WorkForces Report)

I think ALEX is cool. And I gotta tell ya … for a split second, I wished it was Open Enrollment so I could hold a couple of meetings with ALEX. (Does that tell you how much I liked him?!) But ALEX isn’t just a pretty face – or voice. He delivers real results and saves customers time and money in the process. One customer not only realized a savings in travel costs but was able to maintain productivity due to the effectiveness and efficiency in delivering benefits information.

And for those human resources pros like me who are watching the goings on with the Affordable Care Act, I was also excited to hear that The Jellyvision Lab is working on health care reform communication updates to ALEX in anticipation of the implementation milestones.

Check ALEX out for yourself – visit the website, read their blog, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can also sign up for a demo here. Honestly, you’ll thank me once you see what ALEX can do for you!

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