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what to tell employees about health care reform

July 28, 2009

in health communication

a recent conversation with a client went something like this:

me: what about including some health care reform information in the next issue of your benefits newsletter?

client: i think it’s premature. we don’t really know yet how things are going to work out and how it will alter our employees’ benefits.

me: true. problem is, your not knowing the answers doesn’t stop your employees from having the questions.

employees understand that organizations don’t always have all the answers. shocking, i realize. all they want is to be privy to what is known, what isn’t, and when they’ll hear the rest. they also appreciate a helping hand to puzzle through things that deeply affect them, like health care.

the health care reform conversation currently thealth_care_reformaking place (through mouthfuls of chocolate-covered potato chips — part of the problem, perhaps?) affects every person in the U.S., whether employed, unemployed, insured, or uninsured. we all have questions about it. maybe that’s why the new york times took a stab at outlining what the current bills might mean to the average person. they had to deal in generalities, but organizations don’t.

if you have responsibility for benefits communications in your organization, let’s dispense with what you can’t tell employees and move on to what you can. (note: i’m using employees here to mean anyone your plans cover.)

you can tell employees:

  • nothing is going to change this year
  • how their benefits might change under each of the current plans, including example scenarios
  • whether your company is involved in any aspect of the health care debate, and why
  • the likely outlook for movement of these bills through to passage
  • recommended sources for educating themselves
  • what they can do now to get good health care and keep their costs low

to make the exchange even more valuable, stop speculating about your employees’ concerns. open a direct channel — like a blog focused on health care reform, a discussion board, or any other two-way channel — that lets your employees tell you what’s on their mind.



Leave a Comment

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

autom July 29, 2009 at 1:48 pm

while i'm not privy to the details on discussions and bills tabled surrounding the U.S. health reform, i would like to note that your suggestions to offer a forum for open dialogue and proactive provisioning of available information are helpful, pragmatic examples of employee communications transparency.

i often wonder what percentage of corporate organizations continue to live in the pre-social media mindset of controlled, candy-coated communications messaging. and inspite of themselves, do they really believe they are doing the best they can at being proactive? hmm…


fran July 30, 2009 at 6:42 am

probably far too many companies continue to grapple with not only the use of social media, but how to convey complicated, changing information in a way that helps employees make sense of it all. i just came upon an interactive, side-by-side comparison tool on kaiser family foundation, which i think is pretty cool. it lets anyone compare the two prominent health care reform bills, plus many others we aren’t hearing as much about, across a number of factors — of our choosing! you can find it on the home page of their site, http://kff.org.


jillSM July 31, 2009 at 10:56 am

Once again, Fran, you have hit the bullseye in terms of what's going on in our benefits communications consciousness! I was just having a conversation with a client yesterday, suggesting that we do a communication outlining the basic tenets of reform for employees and, frankly, getting a little pushback in terms of “there's nothing to say” and “why bother” and “yeah, I know they're probably either curious or concerned but still, we've got other things to focus on…” Of course, my response was, “well, if you're/we're talking about it and asking the question, so are they!” But that didn't seem to go anywhere productive. Then, lo and behold, there is my exchange in your blog! (Well, close enough.) It was both helpful and validating to read your perspective. Thanks for always being out there, right on, and so timely!


fran August 4, 2009 at 7:42 pm

jill, thanks for sharing the story. so…what happened?! f


health insurance August 28, 2009 at 2:21 am



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