Sebelius – Success or Failure?

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is about to resign. I can predict already what the theme will be: “Our only goal was to reach 7 million Americans and put them on health care. I’ve accomplished that and consider it one of my proudest moments. We’ve overcome the fear-mongering, negative forces and I leave on a wave of success.Read more »

Is Your Live-At-Home Child in Danger of Losing Coverage Under Your HSA Plan?

We all “know” that our kids can remain on our health plans until age 26 (Heaven forbid that we should EVER let them grow up and develop a sense of responsibility!) Read more »

Cartoonist Eavesdrops on Jim and Kathy Edholm

I swear the guy who drew this comic HAD to have been listening in on me and my wife!! Read more »

10 Quick, Simple Strategies to Avoid DOL Wage and Hour Audits

The following are 10 great strategies to prevent or handle a wage and hour investigation.  These become even more applicable in light of President’s effort to make people who have traditionally been treated as salaried to be considered for FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) purposes as if they were hourly. Read more »

Ho Hum – Another Day, Another Court Challenge

President Obama’s people (we’re ALL his “folks”) are going to be busy in court.  More constitutional challenges are in process for his “signature legislation,” the ACA. Read more »

Health Care Cost Tsunami Coming?

To paraphrase Shakespeare, “How can the ACA fail?  Let me count the ways.”

From Oregon the government got a $300,000,000 grant to develop a website.  Read more »

One of the (Many) Problems with the ACA

I just heard about but haven’t yet had time to track down a Wall St. Journal story about Oregon’s Health Care Exchange.  It’s emblematic of exactly what’s wrong with getting government involved in directly doing a job instead of letting the market do it. Read more »

Enhance Your Hiring and Productivity with Better Benefits Communication

An interesting study by UNUM, the insurance company, found some fascinating statistics that you might find worthwhile.

The survey broke employees into two categories,

  • those who felt their benefits communication (from management) was excellent or very good, and
  • those who felt the communications were  only fair or poor

How You Explain Benefits Matters

The survey then asked 7 questions and got the following percentage agreement responses:


Very Good/Excellent Communication

Fair/Poor Communication

My employer values my work



I fully support my company’s values



I feel energized to “go the extra mile” for my company



My employer cares about my well-being



I would stay with current employer even if offered same pay/benefits elsewhere



It would take a lot for me to look for another employer



I would recommend my company as a good employer to work for



Please understand that – undoubtedly like you – I think these are abysmally stupid questions, and it’s hard for me to picture someone saying “no” to many of them.  The guys in the Fair/Poor communications column may well be chronic complainers.

But still.

That’s NOT a small difference.  There is a statistical variation that swamps the “this-survey-is-pure-flatulence” factor.  So despite the stupidity factor of the questions, the survey underscores a really important fact: the effort you make to assure that your benefits programs are properly, completely, thoroughly understood by your people isn’t a waste of time.

Your people appreciate your attempt to keep them informed.  It may be more correct to say that your employees would despise you if they felt you didn’t care enough to explain the benefits.

So What’s the Best Way to Communicate Benefits to Employees?

“OK,” you say.  “I buy that I need to do a good job.  So what do I do?”

The UNUM suggestion is called 3+3 Benefits Communication.  Basically it consist of

  • Three weeks to review benefit information materials PLUS
  • Three ways of communicating benefits.

This second part is what throws off many smaller employers.  Typically benefits decision consist of a group meeting where the carrier guy or gal explains the benefits and employees are handed paperwork and they have a day or so to fill it out.

In the study they found that people who had less than two weeks  rated their benefits as “good” only 85 of the time!!  And they rated their benefits education good 7% of the time.

Relate that fact back to the numbers above and ask yourself how loyal employees with only one week to make a decision are likely to be to your company.  (Hint: not very)

Why three or more ways to communicate benefits?  Simple.  There are different “kinds” of learners.

Visual Learners – These people may prefer videos or printed materials with pictures.

Audio Learners – These guys like audio (live meeting or podcast) training or spoken learning, i.e. supervisors, HR, etc.

Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners – These are the folks who learn best when they write or enter numbers in spreadsheets or go to an online presentation to learn about the programs.

So What Materials Can I Use?

These are some of the materials used by the employer in the survey.  The number in parentheses tells the percent of employers using that technique.  Keep in mind that this survey was mainly take among very large employers – some of what they did may not work for your company.  However, we strive to provide as many of these methods as our clients feel necessary.

  • Printed materials (71%)
  • Personalized statement (68%)
  • Employer intranet (66%)
  • Emails from employer (58%)
  • Interactive decision support tools (56%)
  • Group meetings (54%)
  • In person one-on-one meetings (50%)
  • Emails from insurance providers (46%)
  • Insurance provider’s website (44%)
  • Conference call meetings with HR/benefits advisor (40%)

If you offer options – and we believe that everyone except the smallest employers should offer options – you ought to do the following:

  1. Begin with an email announcement of the bare bones of the plan
  2. Distribute detailed printed materials to employees
    1. Include personalized statements where applicable
  3. Load data about the plans and option onto the Intranet site (we provide that to you as a BBI client at no charge)
  4. Group meetings
  5. If you offer voluntary benefits, you can work with your voluntary benefits provider to give every employee a one-on-one benefits explanation meeting.
    1. In most cases this will also give the employee access to interactive support materials that automatically calculate the cost of the options and the impact on the employees take home pay.

If you’d like more details, simply drop an email to and ask for the brochure Beyond the Usual Benefits.


ACA Enrollment – Fact, Fancy or Failure?

No doubt you have heard or will hear the Administration crowing about the fact that “enrollment” in the Federal Health plan has reached 4.2 Million and there are still 18 days to go before the deadline. Couple of things to keep in mind: Read more »

An Abomination You Haven’t Heard About

Someone I know is undergoing significant medical treatment at Mass General Hospital and with its attending specialists.  This person received what is, to me, a very disturbing letter. Read more »