When I went through the mail
last night I put a postcard sized mailing on the pile to be recycled. This
morning as I was about to take off the address I decided to open the item
because on second inspection it said, “Please read immediately: Important
information about your health benefits enclosed.” The mailing included
instructions for accessing the updated description of the family heath benefits
that we are covered by through my husband’s employer.
Our annual household benefits
open enrollment discussion a few weeks ago was no different than in previous
years. My husband said, “I’m going to email you the information I got about
open enrollment from Human Resources. Tell me what to sign, you understand this
stuff. Oh and I have to fax it back today.” The once a year conversation is typically
followed up by a summary showing up in the mail or handed over for filing by my
husband. I refer to this information throughout the year in order to use the
benefits properly and avoid time consuming calls to the provider.
I think that electronic
distribution of information is terrific; I am in favor of all efficiencies that
save any parts of a forest. I followed the instructions in the mailing to
access the benefits document without a hitch. I did not print out the 125 page
document, but now I know where to find it. The mailing included an option to
request printed documents by mail.
I almost tossed the
instructions; I wonder how many employees, or spouses, read them. We receive a
lot of mail that looks “official” as an enticement to open and respond to
offers. The item had a photo of a laptop computer on the outside and invited
the reader to,” See Inside…Important Information About Accessing Your Health
Care Benefits.” Maybe I read too much about employee benefits, or have heard
too much about benefits in the Economic Stimulus bill. It like an offer to buy
something relating to the provisions for creating electronic medical records,
or expansion of COBRA. OK so the provider logo was on the item, in pretty small
Any confusion could have been
avoided by a letter home from the employer or an email to plan participants.
“Thanks for completing your open enrollment forms; you will be receiving a
postcard sized mailing with instructions for accessing the plan booklet. In
order to save printing and copying these are only mailed out upon request.” My
husband would have forwarded the email to me.
Benefits information is only
useful if employees get it and can understand it. Don’t let efficiencies
actually make it harder for information to be disseminated. This only adds to
the potentially frustrating task of finding answers to benefits questions.