The Affordable Care Act: A Complex Communication Conundrum

By Rick Bell

Nov. 13, 2013

With the vast array of communication tools available today, it would seem that relaying the nuances of the Affordable Care Act to employees would be as effortless as emailing a memo.

That, of course, is not the case. The most talked-about law across the land apparently is the most frustratingly complex to explain as well. In one organization’s campaign to help the messenger ease the confusion, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans has issued a communiqué on how to communicate the ACA to your employees.

Here are five recommendations:

  1. Explain the ACA simply and concisely: The law and its regulatory guidance are far-reaching, complicated and lengthy. Stick to the basics when communicating with your participants.
  2. Focus on the most immediate changes: Cover what is happening during open benefits enrollment and what changes are coming in 2014.
  3. Focus on the areas that have the greatest effect on your workers.
  4. Clarify whether your workers need to purchase health insurance through the public exchanges: Many employers are maintaining their coverage. However, if you are dropping coverage for some or all of your employees, be explicit in the steps they need to take.
  5. State the value of your health coverage in dollars per person: You may also include total cost spent by the organization or cost per payroll, but a worker will better appreciate and understand the value when positioned per individual rather than the organization’s perspective.

The Brookfield, Wisconsin-based foundation recently released “Explaining the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to Your Workers: A How-To Guide” that contains a glossary of ACA-specific terms, a timeline detailing the implementation of the law and a fact sheet about what ACA means for employees. It’s available at

Rick Bell is Workforce's managing editor. Comment below or email Follow Bell on Twitter at @RickBell123.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. For comments or questions email

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