30 May 2013

Take The Emotion Out Of Health Care Reform

By Elizabeth Borton

The rhetoric around health care reform is heating up. I saw a piece on Bloomberg.com about conservative groups who are planning to attack the exchanges. They hope to cut off funding during the debt ceiling debate later this year. In addition, “The chairman of the advocacy group Restore America’s Voice, Ken Hoagland, said he plans to warn people through advertising about the ‘dysfunctional’ exchanges.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With the popularity of social media, rumors are rampant.  And when rumors are rampant, emotions soar. For example, a recent Facebook post stated, “A friend just told me that the health care option he has at work will now cost him $6,000 a year. I’m sure many more of us are going to go through this ourselves in the next few months.  Tighten your belts folks. It’s a comin!!!”

Even trusted news outlets are concerned. As reported in the April 23, 2013 issue of Kaiser Healthcare News, “News outlets report on the confusion that continues to surround the health law, especially as key provisions are about to take effect. Meanwhile, officials and activists strategize about how to educate consumers about their options.”

Employees are concerned and confused. How can you help them understand the impact of health care reform on their medical coverage?

First, educate yourself. Find trusted resources that can help you understand and navigate the many questions. The Kaiser Family Foundation, SHRM and Department of Health and Human Services websites are all great online resources. Of course, your broker, consultant or vendor will help you analyze your population and medical plans to determine your company’s specific strategy.

Next, be sure your executive team and HR reps are on board. It’s “Communications 101,” but if you don’t have the support you need, your communications efforts will not succeed. Here at Write On Target, we’re helping one of our clients to eliminate rumors and miscommunication by preparing a concise management tip sheet. The flyer clearly outlines how the company is going to respond to the new regulations and communicate with employees.

Finally, decrease the emotional impact of health care reform by focusing on the facts. (That’s why it’s important to educate yourself!) Communicate as much information as you feel comfortable sharing.  You don’t have to give away everything you know, but if you don’t share something, the lack of information could raise concerns and suspicion among your employees. Begin the education process now by posting articles about health care reform basics and let your employees know that more will be coming. Then put a communications plan and timeline in place to deliver updates on a regular basis.

As the next couple months unfold, reach out to key confidants in your organization who can alert you to the “buzz” regarding your company’s position on health care. Determine what concerns and questions are most prevalent for your employees and address those issues when appropriate.

As it stands now, health care reform will be an emotional topic for the foreseeable future. Employees will be looking to you to clear up the confusion, especially as it relates to your company’s benefits. I recommend that you stick to the facts and leave the emotional rhetoric to the politicians and talking heads.