Open enrollment is well under way for many employers across the country.  Based on skyrocketing health care costs, I’m going to assume — and it’s probably a safe assumption — that many employers are introducing a new consumer-driven health plan this year.

While employers have increasingly adopted CDHPs as a lower cost option, employees have been slower to embrace them.  Studies on consumer-driven plans and our own conversations with employees seem to indicate workers’ concerns typically stem from the fear of a financially devastating medical event.

In our experience, we have found that voluntary benefits are a great complement to a CDHP and can help relieve employees’ anxiety about their medical plan.  For example, employees may be more willing to participate in a CDHP when they are able to see how a voluntary Accident, Critical Illness or Cancer Insurance plan pays benefits to help them manage their out-of-pocket costs.

To underscore this, Guardian’s Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Consumer-Driven Care study revealed one stat that I found particularly interesting: 57% of employees would be more likely to participate in a CDHP if their employer offered additional coverage for serious medical conditions such as heart attack and cancer.

Voluntary benefits also offer employers a great opportunity to communicate their CDHP to employees.  Hiring a third-party benefit communications partner would greatly streamline the process for employers.  During face-to-face or call center enrollment sessions, a licensed benefits adviser can discuss the CDHP, an accompanying health savings account and illustrate how the voluntary programs provide valuable complementary coverage.  As a result, employees gain a better understanding of their CDHP, HSA and their voluntary options —  typically leading to greater participation in the programs (and possibly tax savings for the employer).

Of course, there’s one more important advantage of the voluntary programs – In many instances, the voluntary benefits could even help fund this worthwhile communication effort!

Do you agree or do this already? Let me know in the comments.

Mantz is Vice President of Sales at The Farmington Company, a national provider of benefits communication and voluntary benefits services. He can be contacted at dmantz@farmingtonco.com or 1-800-621-0067, extension 6703.

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