Three steps for human resources when it comes to retirement medical guidance
Retirement brings uncertainty. Most Americans, throughout their careers, have relied on their employers and specifically Human Resource professionals to provide guidance, advocacy and support in most of their benefits decisions. Employer sponsored benefits and retirement programs are the cornerstone of protecting our health and long-term financial security. But in retirement, choosing a medical plan, a pharmacy program, or a place to park your 401k dollars is a scary proposition for even the most informed consumer.
Although most companies have done away with group sponsored retiree medical plans, it does not preclude them from becoming an information center for prospective retirees. Employees (or parents of employees) approaching age 65 are often inundated with information on Medicare, Medicare Supplements, Part D and Advantage plans. This information overload leads to questions and most employees turn to Human Resources for answers. Or worse, turn to their adult children who then turn to their Human Resources professionals to unwind the complexity.
The work load for Human Resources will only continue to increase.
Beginning in 2011, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers started turning 65 each day. While turning 65 is no longer the “standard” for retirement from employment; age 65 continues to be the qualifying age for Medicare. Most employees, who continue to work after age 65, will stay on their employer’s health plan until retirement when a “special enrollment period (SEP)” will be triggered for them to join Medicare. But many decisions still need to be made.
The HR keys to retirement medical guidance – SIMPLIFY, COMMUNICATE, COLLABORATE
Simplify – The choices can seem overwhelming because of the sheer volume of information that is available. When broken down into it the 4 basic parts, Medicare becomes easier to approach.
Communicate -Let your employees know that help is available. Many of the questions posed will be repetitive. For example, create a simple Q &A and resource page with the most popular questions answered, and it can save time for both the HR Department and employees.
Collaborate – HR professionals don’t often realize that there are brokers and carrier units that specialize in retiree plan guidance, even when no group retirement plan exists. Many current employee benefit programs can help people navigate through the retiree health maze. Stand-alone EAPs, advocate services through ancillary vendors and employee benefit brokers can be great resources to educate employees on retiree health options. It is also useful to provide retirement investment guidance around 401k and 403b plans.
Helping employees effectively transition to retirement can alleviate stress for both the employee and the HR staff. The WGA Retiree Solutions practice can assist in group presentations and education, individual guidance and advocacy, and even plan enrollment. Please contact your WGA Client Executive or Alyssa Martin of WGA Retiree Solutions.
About the Author
Alyssa Martin is a Vice President at William Gallagher Associates, responsible for providing proactive service, effective decision-making and advanced problem-solving capabilities to a number of national clients in the mid-sized to large markets. She also works with key WGA clients to assist their employees with their individual Medicare choices as they are approaching retirement.