For most employers, annual enrollment for this year is in the rear-view mirror. That means that you’re done with the emails, the newsletter, the guide, the meetings, the reminder postcard, the online enrollment system, and other communications, right?

Not if you’ve implemented a new Consumer Driven Health Plan. Not if you want to avoid disruption from confused employees who are using a CDHP for the first time. Not if you want your employees to get the most from this medical option.

When you buy a new car, you get an owner’s manual. The manual doesn’t tell you how to drive or maintain a car – it’s assumed that you already know how to do these things. Instead, the owner’s manual tells you how to drive and maintain this particular car.

With the exception of workers signing up for benefits for the first time, most already know how to use medical coverage. But, do they know how to use a CDHP with a Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Account? You’ve probably spent a lot of time and effort communicating the features of your CDHP and the reasons why a participant should elect this plan. But, as we know, there is more to using a CDHP than just showing a new ID card to the provider.

As participants navigate their new plan, they are likely to have questions. When is the HSA/HRA funded? What expenses qualify for the HSA/HRA? What happens if you use up the HSA/HRA? What happens if the doctor sends you a bill? And, so on…

The approval rate of participants in CDHPs is significantly lower than participants in other medical options. In one study, CDHP enrollees reported a lower satisfaction rating (52%) than traditional plan enrollees (66%). Furthermore, only 45% of enrollees in CDHPs state that they would recommend their plan to friends or coworkers, compared with 55% of those in traditional plans.1

To get the desired cost savings and gains in employee engagement, CDHP sponsors may want to take a page from the book of auto dealers – or rather a page from the owner’s manual. Continue to communicate to your employees about their CDHP beyond enrollment. Certainly it’s important to promote the wellness and health management features and other plan advantages. It’s equally important to explain the nuts and bolts about how to use the plan.

The methods you use to educate participants about their CDHP should be as creative as the methods you used to get them to enroll. Brown bag lunches, webinars, a CDHP primer, an online chat community where participants can share tips and hints with each other…you get the idea.

With more than 22 million people enrolled in CDHPs, these plans are here to stay. While an owner’s manual won’t keep your car from depreciating in value over time, ongoing education for CDHP participants just may increase the value of this plan.


Box-Farnen is a communications consultant in Aon Hewitt’s Baltimore office. She can be reached at


1 Employee Benefit Research Institute – Issue Brief 337, December 2009.


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