Health Insurance Plan Design Pitfalls to Avoid in 2020

Health Insurance Plan Design Pitfalls to Avoid in 2020

Can you believe it’s that time of year again? If you’re an HR leader, you’re already planning your health insurance and benefits for 2020. Whether you’re new to the process or a seasoned veteran, it’s challenging to craft a health insurance plan design that hits the mark with all of your employees. However, you can set yourself up for success by preparing in advance. Simply follow best practices and avoid major pitfalls.

Here are a few common traps to watch out for:

Not addressing behavioral health

Behavioral health is the relationship between someone’s actions and the impact they have on their mental and physical health. It’s a concept that has grown in popularity in the workplace. Why? Many studies demonstrate the importance of addressing health holistically. According to Gallup, employees who don’t take care of their total wellbeing are at higher risk for negative outcomes. This includes being more likely to miss work, lose productivity, and find a new job.

That’s why it’s essential to make sure your benefits plan includes behavioral health benefits like an EAP program. This can include anything from counseling services to substance abuse programs. These tools can help your employees manage their physical and mental health problems. Otherwise, you miss the opportunity to improve your employees’ lives – which you’ll ultimately notice in your bottom line.

Forgetting to account for growth

Are you prepared to accommodate a growing workforce? Don’t forget that you’ll need to drop and add employees to your plan throughout the year. Have a process in place to make these changes seamlessly. As you craft your health insurance plan design, also make sure all of your benefits are easily scalable. That means having tools and programs that don’t require tons of manual effort to get up and running. This is where vetting your vendors properly comes in handy (more on this below).

Missing the demographic mark

Don’t succumb to cookie-cutter health insurance plan design for your company! Instead, take the time to understand the demographics of your employees. Then customize a healthcare offering that makes sense for them. This should take into account factors like age, gender, and family status. Having this information at your fingertips will help you design a truly impactful plan.

For example, let’s say 90% of your employees are millennials. You may want to offer a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) instead of a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan. Since millennials are statistically less likely to utilize the healthcare system, giving them a plan with lower monthly premiums – such as the HDHP – can be beneficial.

Not preparing for open enrollment

Open enrollment is a confusing and stressful time for employees. That’s because less than half of Americans are confident they can choose the right insurance plan. As a result, they’re going to lean heavily on the HR team for guidance. Just remember that preparing for open enrollment isn’t a project that can be done in a few days. It’s a process that needs to be prepared for months in advance.

Print your physical collateral and schedule your training sessions early. And be ready to answer any questions from employees. Open enrollment season will be here soon, and if you miss the opportunity to educate your team during this critical window, you may suffer from low utilization and disengaged teammates for the rest of the year. Mark your calendar and make sure HR has everything ready to go before the deadline. If you have an employee benefits experience platform, make sure to have a plan in place to leverage it and spread the word.

Neglecting year-round education

It’s a common misconception that education starts and stops with open enrollment season. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A year-round education strategy should be baked into your plans. Otherwise, you risk low awareness levels, which can result in employees not using their full package of healthcare benefits. This means wasted money for your organization and a recipe for unhappy employees.

There are many ways to engage in education efforts throughout the year. We recommend using tactics like lunch-and-learn info sessions, email campaigns, and monthly office hours. You can also take a more creative approach. Offer prizes for employees who participate in a lunch-and-learn. Set up company-wide reminders on Slack. Or make fun educational videos and play them around the office. It takes extra work, but with a little preparation and planning, you’ll learn how to incorporate these educational moments into the employee journey seamlessly. You could also include a benefits experience platform like HealthJoy into your plan that has year-round plan education baked in.

Not evaluating a vendor’s offering

While considering your health insurance plan design for 2020, do your due diligence when it comes to selecting vendors. It’s easy to renew a longstanding vendor relationship without a proper review. However, this would be doing yourself and your employees a disservice. Every year, conduct a thorough evaluation to make sure you vendors are at the top of their game. Or you risk missing out on potential cost savings and the chance to offer your employees the best benefits possible.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask existing and potential vendors tough questions. Examples include: “How will you support my company through open enrollment and beyond?” And “Can your product seamlessly integrate with our existing processes?” Or “What makes you different from your competitors?” Your vendor should easily be able to answer these queries — if not , it may be time to find a different vendor.

A lot of work goes into your health insurance plan design and other benefits. And there can be immense pressure to get it just right. But don’t worry. If you keep these common pitfalls in mind as you plan for 2020, you’ll have a head start. With a little extra time and effort, you can create a comprehensive offering your employees will appreciate all year.

Introducing HealthJoy Rewards: Encourage Healthcare Shopping

Introducing HealthJoy Rewards: Encourage Healthcare Shopping

Do you want your employees to shop for healthcare? Then give them an incentive to start shopping with HealthJoy Rewards. Our optional incentive program allows employers to offer monetary rewards to their employees for using fair-priced healthcare services. The amount of the rewards is fully customizable by the employer, but we provide nearly 100 recommendations based on industry best practices. The in-network cost for some procedures varies by up to 10X or more, so it’s no surprise that our program has an ROI of 6X for our beta customers.


How HealthJoy Rewards works for the employee

SHOP: HealthJoy members already ask us every day to confirm or find thousands of high-quality, fair-priced in-network providers for a variety of procedures. They’ll now have an extra incentive to ask us for advice.

SAVE: Recommendations that are rewards-eligible will contain a badge with the incentive amount. Members will also have access to the HealthJoy Rewards Center, which shows completed and open rewards.

EARN: Members can submit a photo of their EOB or bill to verify they followed our recommendation. HealthJoy can also work directly with cooperating TPAs so the employee can skip this step.

We’ll supply a file to the employer listing who should receive rewards and the corresponding amounts. Rewards can be payroll, gift cards, or even HSA contributions. The program is easy to launch and maintain. JOY, our virtual assistant, will educate members on rewards throughout the year and encourage them to shop for all their procedures.

Employers can use HealthJoy Rewards to encourage a wide variety of events, including:

  • Usage of specific facilities for procedures, labs, and diagnostics
  • Consultations and services provided by select providers
  • Utilization of prescription savings programs (coming in 2020)

You can add rewards to an employer’s HealthJoy account at any time. Speak to your Sales or Customer Success Manager for further details. If you would like to see a demo, please click here.

7 Ways HR Can Support Employees Through Family Leave

7 Ways HR Can Support Employees Through Family Leave

When an employee takes family leave, there are many things HR needs to do along the way. There are legal guidelines you need to follow under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if you have more than 50 employees in the United States – plus, additional non-legal steps HR can take to make life easier for the employees. All of these actions need to happen before, during, and even after your employee takes family leave. In this post, we break down what HR needs to do during every stage of the process.

Before your employee goes on leave…

Have a written official company policy

Above all, have a solid family leave policy in place. Don’t wait until your first employee gives notice and scramble to create one. Otherwise, you risk confusion and potential liabilities. Your policy should cover the ins and outs of FMLA requirements, such as the 12 weeks of job-protected leave and group health benefits.

However, the other details of the policy are up to you. Will you offer paid or unpaid leave? Are there any policy differences for birthing parents versus adoptive parents? How far in advance does the employee have to give notice? These are essential points that you need to address in the family leave policy. Having everything laid out ensures everyone is on the same page.

Train your managers

HR may create the family leave policy, but it’s managers who enforce it. That’s why it’s necessary to provide managers with extensive training. It’s not only about teaching them how to handle FMLA time-off requests. It’s also about making sure they understand each employee’s rights and handle situations with sensitivity.

The last thing you want is a manager who inadvertently violates an employees’ rights or the law’s anti-discrimination provisions. For instance, if a manager doesn’t approve an employee’s request for leave (for the wrong reasons), this opens up the company to legal trouble. It’s also disrespectful to the employee and will create tense relationships. Save yourself the stress and invest in the training.

Explain their benefits

Having a seamless benefits experience is important, but especially so during a significant life event like pregnancy. Not knowing how to access insurance information quickly can be stressful for employees while they’re on leave. We recommend taking the time to sit down with them beforehand to walk through their benefits and answer questions. Also, make sure your employees have a way to access all the information even after they leave the office.

During your employee’s leave…

Be respectful

While your employee is on leave, be respectful, meaning zero work-related communications during their time off. You may think a single Slack message or email won’t hurt, but that can add a lot of burden to an already stressful situation. Not to mention it may breed resentment. You can decrease the chances of this happening by having a solid hand-off plan before your employee leaves.

Also, be aware of your employee’s privacy preferences. While some people are happy to hear from coworkers and share updates, others may want complete separation from work. Know what your employee wants and maybe wait for them to reach out first before making contact. It’s not personal; it’s just their way of handling the transition.

Allow flexibility

Be flexible around your employee’s family leave. For example, an employee may request a position change or a reduction in hours before and after parental leave. They may find that it’s challenging to work full-time during the late stages of pregnancy. Or they may want to work in a remote role to spend more time with their family.

While it isn’t required of the company to accommodate these changes, being flexible shows employees that you care about their needs. This, in turn, can lead to happier and more loyal workers. It may also end up working out better for the organizations and associated teams as well.

After your employee’s leave…

Consider post-family leave plans

It can be intimidating to return to work after months of being away. Having a thoughtful transition plan in place can help ease some of your employee’s concerns. It shows them that they haven’t been forgotten and are wanted back at their jobs.

This plan can include information like major updates and which projects the employee will work on next. It can be helpful to map out goals for every week or month, so your employee knows what you expect of them during the transition. Make sure they have a support team that can answer questions and help them ramp back up more quickly as well.


Family leave doesn’t have to be all serious policies and work. It’s an incredibly exciting time for your employee – after all, they’re growing their family! When they return from leave, they should be welcomed back with open arms. This is an excellent opportunity to throw a party or present a thoughtful gift basket (preferably with lots of gift cards to buybuy BABY). Make sure you demonstrate to your employees that you’re there to support their family. Plus, celebrating as a team can strengthen your working relationship.

Make sure to cover all your bases when it comes to family leave. Start with the legal foundation and, from there, build out policies that suit your team’s needs. It’s not just beneficial for your company – it’s helpful for the employees as well.

How to Make Financial Wellness Happen in the Workplace

How to Make Financial Wellness Happen in the Workplace

With unemployment rates at a 49-year low, one would assume that U.S. employees feel comfortable with their current financial situation. However, a recent financial wellness study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) indicates quite the opposite, with more employees than ever admitting to feeling stressed about their financial circumstances.

This is bad news for employers – especially since 35% of employees report that issues with personal finances have been a distraction at the office, which can negatively impact productivity and quality of work. That’s why it’s critical for employers to make financial wellness happen in the workplace. Here are five ways to get started.

Consider financial education

Why are employees increasingly stressed out by their financial situations? It may have to do with the fact that two-thirds of American adults can’t pass a simple financial literacy test. Without this basic foundation, it’s no wonder that employees are confused about their finances and consequently mismanage them. Employers may want to consider investing in classes to help employees navigate their personal finance decisions.

Such classes can cover a broad range of topics from managing debt to paying off credit cards to learning how to save for a big milestone like a home mortgage. Empowering employees with a basic understanding of financial management can help them feel more in control of their situation.

Offer financial counseling

If you want to take financial education to the next level, counseling is a good second step. Financial counselors can help people get out of debt, build up an emergency fund, and catch up on bills that have gone unpaid. The same PwC study found that employees want both to make their own financial decisions and to have an expert to validate their choices. Counseling provides a great opportunity for employees to call the shots on their finances, but with a little professional support.

Help employees plan for the future

The majority of current workers are putting their dreams of retirement on the back burner due to financial stressors. More than 80% of today’s employees believe they’ll still be working during retirement. If you break it down demographically: less than half of Baby Boomers and just one-third of Millennial and Gen X employees are confident about retirement. Not only are they not saving enough, but 27% of employees are actively withdrawing money held in their retirement plans to pay for other expenses. In the future, 49% are likely to dip into retirement savings.

There are many ways employers can support long-term saving. The first one is to offer 401k financial assistance, which is one of the primary ways employees are saving for retirement. You can offer 401k matching options to encourage employees to contribute a portion of their salaries. Or, if this isn’t within reach, you can invest in educational resources, so employees know how to leverage these retirement accounts most effectively.

Get creative with financial wellness benefits

As financial wellness becomes an increasingly important issue in the workplace, companies are coming up with creative benefits to address this issue. For instance, student loan repayment is a financial wellness benefit that’s on the radar of some companies. This is a great idea since 49% of Millennial employees have one or more student loans and 80% of them say that their student loans have a moderate or significant impact on their ability to meet their other financial goals.

Another top employee concern is healthcare. Employees across all generations – Millennials in particular – are concerned that rising healthcare costs will impact their retirement. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a benefit worth considering to help employees toward their financial wellness goals. They can help employees save money for their next healthcare emergency or even be used as a vehicle for retirement savings. Just make sure to invest in education with this benefit as well: of the 60% of employees who are covered by a high or mid-deductible healthcare plan, only 38% of them are contributing to their HSAs. It’s another tax-free way to save money, so encourage your employees to contribute to and use their HSA. Your employees can integrate their HSAs into the HealthJoy experience and even get guidance from our healthcare concierges about usage and product eligibility.

Provide access to online financial management tools

As an increasingly digital society, we’re seeing online financial management tools and robo-advisors abound. This can be anything from simple budgeting trackers to investment management platforms. These tools are a great option since one in four employees ranks a financial wellness benefit with access to unbiased counselors as a benefit they’d most like to see in the future.

Finally, if you’re worried about the utilization of your financial wellness programs, don’t be! The PwC study found that 71% of employees with employer-provided financial wellness services say they’ve used the benefit. The bigger problem is that only 24% of employees indicate that their employers offer such services, which shows that supply isn’t meeting demand. But by putting a few of the outlined steps into action, you can change that situation in no time.

Why Your Company Needs to Address Mental Health

Why Your Company Needs to Address Mental Health

Many people end up spending a quarter to a third of their lives in the workplace. So it’s no wonder the state of employees’ mental health is largely tied to their jobs: One in four Americans recently named their job as a source of anxiety. That’s why it’s critical for companies to address employee mental health issues in the workplace.

Thankfully, mental health topics are being more openly discussed, which has given rise to related employee benefits like meditation apps, online counseling, and self-care days. If you’re still on the fence about whether these benefits are worth the investment, here are six advantages that come with addressing mental health issues in the workplace:

Increases employee productivity

Employees with conditions like depression or anxiety aren’t only struggling mentally – they feel it on an emotional and physical level as well. This makes it incredibly challenging to get out of bed each day, focus on work, and build relationships with coworkers. As a result, the World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

However, if you give employees the tools they need to manage their mental health conditions better, it makes a difference in both their wellbeing and performance. Whether it’s by offering counseling services, or providing access to meditation apps, giving employees resources to take care of themselves can help them reset and produce better work.

Saves company healthcare costs

It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that mental health issues are expensive. It’s not only because of the costs related to lost productivity, as mentioned in the previous point. But it’s also due to the treatments, medications, and doctor’s visits employees seek out to manage their mental health problems. A study looking at the financial impact of employee health problems found that depression was the most expensive condition, followed by obesity, arthritis, back or neck pain, and anxiety.

Investing in the wellbeing of employees can drastically reduce these costs. Research has found that for every $1 put into treatment for common mental disorders, there’s a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Not to mention that proper mental health management could potentially reduce the number of doctor’s visits or prescription medications needed in the future.

Boosts morale

It’s an incredibly isolating experience for employees to go through mental health struggles alone. The experience is made worse when working at a company that isn’t accommodating of mental health needs. That’s why offering benefits and – more importantly – creating a company culture where it’s OK to talk about these issues is such a big deal. Taking these steps will also show employees that you’re invested in their wellbeing, which will lead to a noticeable boost in morale, loyalty, and overall happiness.

Lowers absenteeism

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the leading cause of absenteeism in the United States is depression. Employees may be debilitated by their condition, or they may feel overwhelmed from having to juggle their work and mental health issues. Regardless of the reason, absenteeism is a big deal and costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees.

But it’s not just the financial impact that’s harmful. Absenteeism can create a vicious cycle: the more days of work an employee misses, the more overwhelmed they feel. This can worsen their condition until they find a better way to manage their mental health issues. Proactively addressing this issue can lower the harmful effects that come with absenteeism.

Reduces turnover

Every year, more companies are investing in benefits focused on the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees. If you’re one of the few that doesn’t follow suit, you’re likely to lose talent and see high turnover rates. Why should an employee stay at an organization that doesn’t support their mental and physical health – especially when there are so many other companies that will?

On the flip side, being one of the companies that offer impactful mental health benefits will improve your recruiting efforts. It will also keep your existing employees happy and more likely to stay at the organization.

Decreases number of accidents in manual positions

Finally, mental health isn’t only an issue among office workers. It’s just as prevalent in workers with manual roles, such as construction or manufacturing. While people are aware of the physical impact manual laborers deal with, mental health issues aren’t as frequently discussed. It’s reported that one in five construction workers struggle with mental health issues.

Given that there’s a strong link between your mental wellbeing and physical health, this is an important issue that companies need to address. A manual worker who is depressed, losing sleep, or abusing substances is much more likely to get hurt on the job than someone who is mentally well. Finding ways for these workers to access the care they need can decrease accident rates and improve their overall wellbeing.

While it’s great to see progress around mental health in the workplace, there’s still more to be done. Many employees still don’t feel comfortable raising mental health issues with their managers. This indicates that companies have to do more to create a culture where mental health is openly addressed and supported. We encourage all employers to look into the growing number of mental health benefits that are available for their employees.

We’ve launched HealthJoy EAP, the only employee assistance program that uses artificial intelligence to increase utilization, awareness, and education. Learn more arrow right circle icon

How to Get Your Employees to Love Their HDHP

How to Get Your Employees to Love Their HDHP

High deductible health plans (HDHP) are skyrocketing in popularity: Surveys report that enrollment has grown from 4% in 2006 to 29% in recent years. While these plans are a great alternative to the traditional PPO or HMO, HDHPs tend to face resistance from employees because they’re believed to be more expensive, complicated, and inconvenient to use. Unfortunately, many of these assumptions are based on misinformation.

As an employer or HR leader, how do you overcome these misconceptions and show your employees the positive side of HDHPs? Here are four actionable tips you can use to help employees fall in love with their new plans.

Provide education about your HDHP

People are already confused when it comes to basic healthcare decisions: less than half of Americans are confident they can choose the right insurance plan. It’s no wonder that employees resist adding another option to the mix. That’s where education plays a key role. It’s important to set employees up for success by clearly communicating upfront what an HDHP is, how it differs from their past insurance plans, and how it may impact it their healthcare and financial decisions.

For instance, if you educate your employees ahead of time about the high deductible that comes with an HDHP, they can save money in advance and be prepared for their first healthcare visit. Otherwise, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise when they receive a medical bill.

Here are a few additional tips to consider:

  • Cut out jargon. Healthcare is chock full of confusing acronyms, convoluted language, and boring explanations. Do your employees a favor and cut the jargon. Instead, create materials, emails, and decks that have straightforward language and eye-catching content to increase the chances that they’ll actually be read, heard, and understood.
  • Use multiple channels of communication. Survey your employees and see which channels of communication resonate the most with them. It could be email, printed collateral, in-person presentations — or a combination of these things. Use this information to customize your communication strategy to your workforce, instead of defaulting to a cookie-cutter solution.
  • Offer office hours. If you have the time, set office hours and encourage employees to come with any concerns or questions they have about their HDHPs. Healthcare decisions can be incredibly stressful for employees to make, and this is a great way to show that you’re there to support and educate them on an issue that will have a direct impact on their lives.

Communicate the tax benefits of HSAs

One of the greatest benefits of an HDHP is that most of the plans qualify for a Health Savings Account (HSA). For those who aren’t familiar, an HSA is a tax-advantaged account designed specifically for healthcare. The goal is for employees to use this account to put aside money while they’re healthy and later dip into those savings when they need it. The HSA can be used to pay for a variety of qualified medical expenses, from prescription medications to contact lenses to dental services.

To make it easier to understand, you can think of an HSA as a 401K – except that it’s designed for healthcare and has even more tax advantages since you can put aside part of your salary pre-tax, grow that money tax-free, and use it later for qualified medical expenses (again, without paying taxes). Also, unlike an FSA or HRA, the money in an HSA rolls over year after year so you don’t have to worry about losing it. There are so many incredible benefits associated with the HSA that, when utilized properly, can save your employees money in the long run.

Emphasize the lower premiums

Most employees transitioning to an HDHP for the first time are likely rolling off a PPO or HMO plan, which have higher premiums and lower deductibles. Individuals may experience sticker shock when they see how much their new deductible is and forget that they’re also paying a much lower premium every month.

Employers need to help their workers reframe the situation. Let’s say your employee historically paid $400 per month in premiums for a PPO, but now pays $100 per month in premiums on an HDHP. If they go six months without utilizing any healthcare services (which is entirely plausible for young and healthy employees), that’s $1,800 in savings.

Mercer has found that employees save around 30% on premiums when they’re on HDHPs. So while the deductible amount may be higher, you can remind employees about the money they’ve saved from paying lower premiums each month.

Showcase the cost savings for healthy workers

It’s important to be honest and acknowledge the fact that HDHPs aren’t the best fit for every employee. However, given the way that the plan is structured, it’s most likely to benefit younger, healthier employees. Since they’re less likely to utilize healthcare services, they’ll reap the benefits of a lower premium and put away a significant amount of savings in their HSAs.

While the most ideal way to accommodate the needs of every employee would be to offer multiple plan options, we recognize that this isn’t feasible for many companies – especially given the continuously rising costs of healthcare. However, based on the fact that millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, HDHPs may be your best bet when it comes to finding a plan that’s beneficial for the majority of the workforce. Showing your younger workers that the HDHP was designed with their preferences in mind and demonstrating that it can save them money is a great way to get a large chunk of your employees to embrace this plan.

Transitioning employees to an HDHP can be challenging – especially if they’ve historically been on PPO or HMO plans. It takes time, patience, and effort to get them comfortable with the HDHP, but you shouldn’t be discouraged if you find that employees don’t warm up to it right away.

All it takes is an investment in education and smart communication around the advantages of this type of plan, and you’ll eventually see employees shift their attitudes to loving their HDHPs!