Communicators, Get Ready for Healthcare Reform

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All signs indicate that Congress will pass healthcare reform legislation before the end of this year.

While there have been vast differences of opinion about the reform legislation, I think we can all agree that — once the bill is signed into law – employers will need to inform their employees about the changes that will impact them and their benefits.

The good news is that most organizations are either in the process of, or have just completed, annual benefits enrollment.  So there should be some processes already in place for communicating benefits changes.

The bad news — we don’t know exactly what the law will mandate, and exactly how the law will change our company’s benefit offerings.  Unfortunately, our employees will expect to hear that information as soon as the media reports passage of the bill.  And they will get frustrated by our inability to provide specific details.

In this scenario, the best course of action is to start communicating now, start setting the expectation that the HR team is tracking the healthcare reform debate and working proactively with current benefits providers to ensure that information is communicated as soon as details are available.

I’d recommend equipping managers and executives with a holding statement, similar to the ones used in the early phases of a crisis, which reinforces both the organization’s preparations and the plans for ongoing information updates.

You should also be working now on FAQs.  It shouldn’t be hard to determine which questions should be addressed if you’ve been following the healthcare debate:

  • How will I (and my family) be impacted?
  • Will I need to switch my coverage?
  • How much more with this cost me?
  • What are my options for getting insurance?

You might also want to prepare a presentation deck that can be used either by a department manager, or by the HR leader during an all-hands meeting or webinar.  You won’t have enough details to release it until after the bill becomes law, but at least you’ll have a head start.

Don’t delay.  Pull your communications team together and start working now on your plans for communicating what has the potential to be the biggest change facing your employees in the past few decades.

Susan C. Rink is principal of Rink Strategic Communications, which helps clients take their employee communications to the next level.  Email her at rinkcomms@verizon.net.

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About Susan Rink

Susan C. Rink is principal of Rink Strategic Communications (www.rinkcomms.com), author of the "Take Note" blog and presenter of the "Take Note" podcast series (http://www.youtube.com/user/RinkComms).

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