12 February 2013

Choose Your Words Wisely

By Elizabeth Borton

I’ve written before about the importance of using everyday language to explain benefits to your employees. Benefits may be complex, but they can be simplified if you are direct, concise and use words that your audience understands. 

Anton Gunn, Director of External Affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about this challenge in a recent article in Employee Benefit News. Mr. Gunn was speaking at the Families USA Health Action 2013 Conference when he said, “You’ve heard people use the word ‘exchange’ this morning. Well, guess what? We’re going to use the word ‘marketplace.’ Now, why are we going to use the word ‘marketplace?’ Because that actually makes sense to people ‘Exchange’ doesn’t translate to anything in Spanish, but ‘marketplace’ does. If we want to make the implementation of the Affordable Care Act real to people in this country, we need to recognize and use words that actually make sense to people.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Gunn acknowledged that implementing the Affordable Care Act will be a communication challenge. He estimates 12 million of the uninsured who will qualify for health care speak Spanish and another million speak neither English nor Spanish as their primary language. Plus 25% of the uninsured haven’t graduated from high school.

And here’s the good/bad news…the bulk of the communication effort will be handled by employers.

So what are you doing to prepare to reach out to your uninsured employees? Do you have language barriers to overcome? Is your terminology simple enough to be understood on a grade school level? Will you provide extra assistance to those enrolling for the first time?

When it comes to implementing the Affordable Care Act in 2013, consider all the factors and be sure to choose your words wisely.