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9 tips to help employees transition to public exchanges

Originally posted on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

According to the Obama administration, the state insurance marketplaces set up under ACA are on schedule to begin open enrollment on Oct. 1. To aid in communicating health care reform changes this fall, here are nine tips for transitioning employees into the public marketplace from Sara Taylor, health solutions development leader at Aon Hewitt.

Supplement the ‘Notice of Exchanges’

While the model notice provided by Health and Human Services helps employers comply with provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the notice itself is likely to generate confusion and more questions from employees than it answers. Employers should supplement the model notice with additional education on the ACA and proactively answer the question, “What do I need to do with this notice?”

Provide context

Explain your benefits strategy and provide context on how the public marketplaces fit within your benefits strategy.

Target your communication strategy as needed

The ACA and marketplaces may impact different employee groups in different ways. Think through the messages that impact all employees and those messages that affect only specific audiences.

Clearly explain required action and timing

What do employees need to do and by when? This information can get lost. Be sure to clearly call out specific required action steps and deadlines – both for your benefits plans and for marketplaces.

Don’t forget Medicaid

Public marketplaces are only one option for employees to obtain medical insurance. With many states expanding Medicaid eligibility, Medicaid or other public programs may be viable alternatives for some employees.

Be prepared for questions

No matter how well you communicate, some employees will have questions or need additional assistance and they will likely look to you for help. Ahead of time, determine who will be handling questions, identify likely questions and have answers and others resources prepared ahead of time.

Take advantage of external resources

Enrolling in health benefits can be overwhelming for many individuals, and the introduction of the marketplaces adds a whole new layer of complexity. There are resources and tools available today that can help individuals understand their options, model program eligibility — including whether they may qualify for a premium tax credit (or subsidy) in a marketplace — and in some cases, enroll in a health plan.

Engage HR and management

Ensure that your leadership is aware of and on board with your benefits strategy and how the public marketplaces fit into that strategy. Encourage your HR team and managers to be advocates for your strategy to employees.

Supply the details

Employees that apply for financial assistance in the marketplaces need to provide information about any health insurance available to them from an employer (e.g., cost of “you only” coverage). Individuals will be instructed to ask their employers to fill out the employer information section of the form. Know how you will handle these requests. Or better yet, give employees self-service access so they can complete the application themselves.