Healthcare and Benefits - A Modern-day Tower of Babel Story

Healthcare and Benefits – A Modern-day Tower of Babel Story

Balance billing, COBRA, co-insurance, donut hole, EAP, urgent care, formulary… is your head spinning yet?  I’m just getting started.


In about the year 2242BC, according to The Bible in Genesis 11:1-9, following the great flood, the descendants of Noah migrated westward into the land of Shinar.  Some Biblical scholars believe that the people, wanting to survive a second great flood, schemed to build a tower.


Even secular society, almost 4000 years later, has a general knowledge of how the story of the Tower of Babel plays out.  God didn’t like the idea of humans challenging His authority in building this tower to reach the Heavens.


God didn’t destroy the tower. Nope. In God’s infinite wisdom, He simply “confounded their language”.  It’s nearly impossible to accomplish much if you do not understand the language of the people with whom you are trying to work.  And so, it is the same with healthcare and benefits… a modern-day tale of the Tower of Babel.


My daughter recently went to the doctor for some blood work.  Subsequently, a few days later an envelope was delivered to her house from the doctor’s office.  Four pages front and back at 10-point type to explain “EOB”.  An explanation of Explanation Of Benefits!


It gets better. She handed it to me and asked if I could explain it.  This is the level of “healthcare language insanity” where we have arrived.


This blogger (Communications Director at The Benefit Company) with the help of some colleagues wants to give you ten tips to deciphering this “Tower of Healthcare and Benefits Babel” for employees.  Put these ten tips to work and realize not only a fundamental change in understanding but also an improved company culture surrounding your benefits.


  1. Meet people where they are – If your employees are on the road all day, a trucking company, for instance, your healthcare communications strategy should be rooted in making sure those messages land in the cab of that truck. Think creatively! If the truck comes in once a month for an oil change, put a flyer on the dashboard to extol the benefits of using telemedicine.
  2. Narrow the scope – It is tempting to dream about an open enrollment session that covers every aspect of your plan and every employee walks away with full understanding. This is not a reality.  Pick three to five topics that will have the most impact on the plan and elevate these topics.  Don’t stop there, take these three to five topics and continue to promote understanding throughout the plan year. – Nick Hendricks
  3. Navigation versus Understanding – There is a reason you get a leaflet sent to your home every week about gutter cleaning. It is so the leaflet will be there when you decide you need it. The same is true for healthcare information. People will not choose to understand their benefits until they need to engage with them. Arm employees with the resources they need to navigate choices and find understanding.  Navigation is more effective than understanding.
  4. “I was told this was covered.” – This is probably the single most frequent statement employees make. The important detail here is “how”.  How is it covered?  To an employee, “covered” means 100%, 100% of the time.  Be clear about “how” a plan covers an employee. A great example of how not understanding a single word can create chaos. – Debbie Green
  5. Terms you need to know – Let’s be honest, we nor our clients, are going to change the overuse of industry-specific terminology and anacronyms in healthcare and benefits. Give your employees the resources upfront for translating these terms. This can be as simple as a sheet of definitions to “show me” style videos covering topics like HSA, co-insurance, high deductible plan and the like.
  6. Out-of-Pocket Maximum baseline – Out-of-pocket maximum is always a good baseline to begin a conversation to explain benefits or even an event that has already occurred and a claim is in motion. People are always more approachable when they know the baseline from which to make all decisions. – Kathy Sigmon
  7. Repetition – It is often said in marketing, people must be exposed to an idea a minimum of three times to reach a consideration point. I emphasize consideration.  You will not change the levels of understanding and effective engagement with your benefits plan with a single flyer posted by the coffee maker in the break room.  You must be intentional, frequent and relentless to experience better choices.
  8. K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Sweetie! I cannot hammer this point enough.  Employees, as my daughter illustrated above, do not want to or have time to read pages of text to search for the actionable information they need.  Keep it simple in the number of words, choice of words and, of course, the language.  If you want employees to use telemedicine, give them a big-picture they can relate to (sick child at 3 AM) and five bullet points on “why” then two lines on “how”.  That’s it!
  9. Healthcare is Personal – At The Benefit Company, our employee advocates always have top of mind in every interaction that healthcare is personal. There is no single answer, method, strategy or catch-all that works for every employee with whom they engage.  First and foremost, a listening ear and trust development are the tools they use to solve the complexities that exist for each person.  Notice I said person and not member number. – Amy Towe
  10. Fun – Can all of this chaos be fun? Fun may be a high bar but with a well-defined communications strategy companies can experience monumental swings in how their employees rate their experiences engaging with the company-provided healthcare and benefits. The Benefit Company’s work in this area receives frequent accolades from employers and employees alike.  Contact us for some examples and testimonials.


As a person who has not worked in the healthcare and benefits space my entire career, my sympathies are great for the employees we serve in navigating the healthcare (post Tower of Babel) landscape.  Each day is filled with victories and new impediments to understanding.  One day, maybe in my lifetime, the language of healthcare and benefits will be of one dialect again.  Until then, we fight on!



Johnny Dodson

Director of Communications

Johnny Dodson

  • Communications
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Brand Development
  • Employee Engagement
  • Project and Vendor Oversight
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