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Onboarding New Members to Your Union Health Care Plan

By Julia Passwater | May 30, 2018

While most union trustees understand the value of participating in a health care plan, it's important to follow through by actively encouraging members to join the plan. Onboarding new members to your union health plan early on in their membership helps ensure that the majority of members are actively enrolled, which is key to a healthy workforce and a healthy trust.

The Benefits of Onboarding New Members to the Health Plan

According to the Harvard Business Review, individuals who receive health benefits are less stressed, have better cognitive abilities and make better long-term decisions.

As HBR notes, in a study of Kenyan metalworkers, those who were given free health coverage for one year didn't just report feeling less stress — their chemical makeup reflected the change. They experienced a drop in cortisol, a stress hormone linked to depression. It's no surprise that members with health benefits are better able to put aside immediate worries and conflicts to focus on the long term.

With so much to gain, it's crucial for trustees to ensure that new members enroll upon joining the union.

How to Encourage Members to Enroll

Trustees can encourage new members to join the union health plan by communicating the plan's benefits to all members on a regular basis. If most members have enrolled and are happy with their benefits, new members are more likely to join in. To develop an effective communications strategy, make your benefits administrator the main contact for all communication related to the plan. This will make it easy for workers to ask questions and get answers. If you send a welcome packet to new union members, make sure it includes information about health benefits.

Ensure that your benefits administrator is approachable to members. Have a representative visit during relevant events, like wellness fairs or open enrollment periods. When members know how to join the plan and whom to contact with questions and concerns, they're more likely explore and use the health benefits available to them.

It's also important for trustees and benefits administrators to explain the financial advantages of joining the health plan. With the ACA penalty for not having health coverage set to $0, some workers may wonder whether the costs of insurance outweigh the benefits. Use real-world examples to demonstrate the importance of health coverage. For example, explain how a trip to the emergency room without insurance could result in costly hospital bills.

According to Reuters, most members would rather receive better health insurance than a pay raise — but only if they know that signing up for health benefits is actually worth it. Helping workers get the most out of your union's health benefits offerings means acting early, not waiting until costly problems arise. Combining value with education and accessibility will start you off on the right foot.

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.

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