As open enrollment begins, fewer U.S. employees say they feel prepared to navigate that process, according to a new survey.
Still, 75% of workers say they’re ready. But the fourth annual UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey found sharp differences in how well-prepared different generations of workers with health benefits feel. Only 44% of Generation Z employees say they’re prepared for open enrollment, compared to 69% of millennials, 84% of Gen-Xers and 78% of baby boomers.
Underscoring the need for employers to use engaging employee communication to help the enrollment process, 36% say they devote less than an hour to research their benefits choices. About 27% say they spend between one and three hours on studying their health care coverage options, and 23% said they dedicate more than three hours.
Employees reaffirmed their strong interest in specialty benefits, with 77% saying that having dental and vision coverage options during annual enrollment is important. Almost 55% say they said they check to see if their doctors are listed as in-network for the health coverage plan they want to select.
A human touch remains important in the age of apps and automation. Faced with questions or issues on their health coverage, 66% of employees say they prefer to speak directly with a customer service representative.
When they seek information about specific health symptoms or problems, 46% say they prefer to consult a doctor or nurse as their primary source, followed by 20% who first check apps or to the internet. Others go to friends, family, social media, medical plan documents or patient advocacy groups.
The survey did find signs that U.S. workers increasingly want technology to help them make health care decisions during open enrollment. About 37% say they have used apps or the internet to comparison shop for care and benefits – and 39% of those respondents say they changed either health care facilities or providers based on what they learned.
Almost half (45%) of employees say they would be interested in having their health care professionals use artificial intelligence to help with treatment decisions. Half of all respondents say they use some form of voice-activated assistant tool like Siri or Alexa, and 61% of them say they’d like to see it used to help access medical care and information.
“Technology continues to reshape nearly every aspect of life, including how people research and access health care,” says Rebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare’s chief consumer officer. “This survey suggests Americans are increasingly embracing technology as an important resource to improve their health and more effectively navigate the health system.”
Employers must use effective employee communication to break through information overload and keep their workers engaged to ease the process.
Reaching your workforce
Employers must use effective employee communication to break through information overload and keep their workers engaged to ease the process. Here are some suggestions for success:
- As an employer, you may feel like you’ve done a great job educating your workforce on benefits and their choices – and you probably have! However, as new generations enter your workforce, it’s important to keep your employee communication current. You don’t want employees to check out on the communication because it’s not fresh.
- As technology has grown, so have expectations. Today’s employees use the most sophisticated apps, websites and software in their daily lives, and they want to interact with their employers the same way. As you look to leverage technology in benefits communication, make sure it’s intuitive, conversational, flexible and – most importantly – works! Nothing is worse than app or website crashes.
- One way to reach new Gen Z employees who know little about benefits and feel intimidated by the lingo is with personalized benefits modelers. Employees input information about themselves and get customized suggestions about the best benefits package for them and their life stage. They’re typically happier using a modeler because it not only helps them take advantage of all your perks, it also helps them find the most cost-efficient health plan for them.