How to Communicate w/Employees About Health Insurance Exchange

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With the rollout of the Health Insurance Exchange (the “exchange”)—also known as the Health Insurance Marketplace—scheduled for this fall, and the employer’s exchange notice due by October 1, employers need to know how to talk to employees about the exchange. Here are some tips:

Comply with Notice Requirements

  • Exchange Notice. Effective October 1, 2013, employers are required to provide a notice to employees about the exchange including that they may have access to subsidies if their employer does not offer affordable health care. Model notices are available on the Employee Benefits Security Administration website.

How to Communicate

  • Focus on what matters now. The Affordable Care Act is an enormously complicated law; communicating too much to employees can be unnecessarily confusing. Don’t overwhelm employees with “what if” scenarios, or how things may turn out in 2018.
  • Plan for ongoing communication. Use all resources available to you and keep employees updated on current developments.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Make it accessible. Use intranet, social media, videos and real-life examples to help explain.

What to Communicate

  • Tell employees that the ACA is now the law. According to recent surveys by Kaiser Family Foundation, 40 percent of Americans do not know the ACA is the law.
  • Communicate that the ACA changes many rules about health insurance in 2014. For example:
    • Insurance companies must accept everyone who applies for coverage, regardless of health status.
    • The individual mandate requires that every individual must be covered or pay a fine.
    • Employers are required to provide employees with information regarding employees’ ability to purchase health insurance on the exchange.
  • Focus on the exchange.
    • Explain that exchanges are marketplaces where individuals and small employers can buy health insurance.
    • Explain that government subsidies are available for some individuals who purchase health insurance on the exchange, but that if the individual is offered coverage through his or her employer that meets certain minimum standards, the individual may not be eligible.
    • Communicate that the exchange may be helpful to some employees, e.g., part-time employees, seasonal employees, early retirees and temporary workers.

What To Avoid

  • Avoid discussing with employees the administrative burden or financial impact that the ACA is having on the company.
  • Avoid offering advice to employees regarding the type of insurance he or she should select.
  • Avoid inducing your employee to purchase health insurance through the exchange rather than through the employer or vice versa.