As a trustee, you know that your members' health is key to their ability to do their jobs. You also know how important member buy-in and satisfaction are to your union. But did you know that offering quality health care benefits can help you achieve both those ends at the same time?
Here are three ways your board can use its health care offerings to the benefit of both your membership and the union itself.
Build a Culture Around Benefits
It's hard to get the maximum value from your health care options if your members aren't aware of what's available to them. But driving awareness takes a holistic effort, going beyond simple advertisement and communication to making wellness and health benefits part of the union's culture and brand.
While direct outreach is an important aspect of educating members, it can also be wise to establish centers of information in the kinds of places members are likely to find them. For example, developing and maintaining an online portal that allows members not only to see what health care benefits are available, but also to access supplementary resources and materials that can help them navigate those offerings.
To improve the inclusion of health information and education into your union's culture, consider adding "success stories" from members who have experienced the benefits of the union's health care plan. Translating lists of facts and options into human faces and relatable stories can help get the message across, engaging members to think about their own needs. Even just sending out a solicitation for volunteers to submit their success stories could result in higher awareness of and interest in your health benefits offerings. Keep in mind, of course, that it's vital to avoid committing any privacy violations when it comes to health care information.
Share Statistics About the Health of Your Members
While building a culture around your health care benefits can be an effective tool for reaching a wide range of members, others may respond better to hard numbers and statistics.
Continually gathering and presenting concrete information about how your members are using your health benefits may make them more aware of what's available and that their fellow members are taking advantage of the benefits. Showcasing data about health claims and their dollar value might help members see the true value of your offerings.
Again, take care to respect member privacy. If it seems best not to use actual member data, working out some hypothetical math to include in your benefits communications or resources can be effective, too. When in doubt, consult with legal counsel.
Consider Offering Nontraditional Benefits
A recent article by the Wall Street Journal reports that many employers are expanding the types of coverage they offer in order to recruit new talent. For instance, 66 percent of employers plan to offer some type of fertility benefits by 2019. With new and more benefits available to workers at large, it's crucial to stay up to date with the latest trends in health care benefits offerings.
Here are some examples of the types of nontraditional and supplemental benefits more and more health plans are offering — and more and more workers are expecting.
- Ancillary benefits: Including dental, vision, hospitalization and accident coverage, these benefits round out a health care package and provide members with a myriad of care options.
- Wellness programs: Wellness initiatives like health screenings, smoking-cessation programs and gym membership discounts help members take a proactive approach to their health and offer opportunities to engage with their health care plan that might better suit their health goals.
- Health savings accounts (HSAs): These allow members to put away tax-free money for qualifying health expenses, making it easier for members to plan ahead and take advantage of care options when they're needed.
- Telemedicine: Health plans that provide the option to receive health care via nurse hotlines, online chat or video call make it more convenient — and thus more likely — for members to seek care.
If you're not sure which nontraditional benefits your members would like the most, try asking them. Doing so will also show them that you're committed to meeting their needs as they define them.
There are many ways your board can improve its health care offerings and communicate those offerings to members. When members know they have strong, quality health care options that meet their life's needs, they're more likely to use them. And they'll thank themselves — and you — that they did.
Julia Passwater is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Passwater earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Indiana University Bloomington, and she earned a Juris Doctor degree from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. After earning her law degree, Passwater spent over a decade enforcing federal employment laws for the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Today, Passwater writes about topics such as politics, government, employment law and work in the 21st century.