Communicating the Realities of the Individual Market To Employees

Confident economists discussing financial data at meeting

Individual plans, as described in the Affordable Care Act, continue to receive a lot of attention in the news.  As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal  multiple major insurance carriers throughout the country have requested rate increases of over 20% in the individual market.  Unfortunately, North Carolinians are not spared from this trend, as BCBSNC reported that individual plans will increase on average 22.9% in 2018.  In addition to increasing rates, news articles continue to surface highlighting how plan designs available in the exchange are limiting their hospital or provider choices on narrowed network plans.  Mckinsey & Company reported that in 2017, 53% of all plans offered on the exchange offer a limited network of providers.

Effective Employee Benefits Communication Strategies Allow Employees to Make Informed Decisions

While many employers and employees may be tired of talking and hearing about the Affordable Care Act and Healthcare reform, I recommend including these facts regarding the individual market in your open enrollment communications to employees.  The tendency may be to shy away from healthcare reform conversations now that the ACA has been implemented and ACA reporting has occurred the last two years; however, my experience is that including a summary of all national trends is an objective approach to helping employees make informed decisions. This provides a valuable contrast between the ACA Marketplace and the benefits available through the employer’s group plan.

While your group plan may be experiencing cost increases and some plan design adjustments, the changes I am seeing to employer-sponsored group plans pale in comparison to the drastic cost increases, benefit reductions, and provider restrictions taking place in the individual markets.  Being transparent about employees’ options serves as a reminder that the grass is not always greener on the other side.  This communication strategy may also enhance the perceived value of the employer plan, reinforcing their understanding of the employer’s continued investment in their health.

With open enrollment approaching, contact HCW to ensure national healthcare trends and the realities of the ACA Marketplace are part of your Benefits Communication plan.