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Employees are often lukewarm about Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHP) that offer both a high deductible and a health savings account (HSA).

So how did Woodward Communications Inc. get 54 percent adoption in its first year in 2017?

A Natural Fit

Woodward Communications, Dubuque, Iowa, is a diversified, employee-owned company that has been an Alliance member since 2006. Because our employees are owners, they share in the rewards and challenges of ownership, and the message of health care consumerism has always been a natural fit.

In 2016, the Healthcare Committee decided it would offer both a CDHP along with the existing PPO option for our self-funded health care plan during open enrollment for 2017.

Our broker advised us to expect 20 to 25 percent of employee-owners to choose the CDHP in the first year. Knowing that we are employee-owned and have promoted health care consumerism for several years, our optimistic goal was 40 percent.

Lights, Camera, Action

Anyone who communicates to employees about benefits knows that the message can easily be lost, misunderstood, or simply tuned out in favor of more ‘sexy’ topics.

The communications challenge is magnified at Woodward because we have more than 500 employee owners across the Midwest. We deliberately chose to use the term CDHP in all our messaging – written promotions, open enrollment meetings, etc. as we thought it has a less negative connotation than high-deductible health plan.

Getting creative with communication and using a variety of channels was key to our effectiveness. We played to our strengths and went to what WCI does best: Media.

First, a theme was established: Lights, Camera, Action. Our creative team designed a logo and other art elements that we used in all open enrollment communications.

We kicked off our theme with a short video, produced by and starring our own employee owners.

We also introduced a benefits portal, created in partnership with our benefits consultant. The portal had links to videos, question-and-answer documents, and more. This benefits portal is accessible anywhere with an internet connection, so employee owners could review information at home with their spouse.

A Month-By-Month Plan

 In addition to our theme, another key to our success was educating our managers.   We did this in August, before our formal plan was launched.  This education was key to gaining buy-in and support and helped strengthen the presentation before we took it to the entire employee population.

 As the video shares, we turned on the “lights” in September to formally introduce the benefit changes in employee meetings. Because we know that the benefits decision-maker is not always the employee owner, we also sent Lights, Camera, Action themed postcards home, with a schedule of the employee meetings.

In October, we focused the “camera” lens on our employee owners, offering one-on-one meetings in partnership with our benefits consulting firm. Benefit consultants met with employee owners and spouses to review claims information to assist them with choosing the plan that best fit their needs.

November was time for our employee owners to take “action,” and enroll in the benefit plan that fit their unique needs.

It’s About Education

The Woodward Healthcare Committee knows that offering two health care options is not uncommon among employers. While we spent significant time and effort on plan design and setting appropriate premiums, we know our CDHP offering is likely to be similar to other employers’ plans.

What makes us different is:

  • Employee-ownership; our employees are owners, and they share in the rewards and challenges of ownership. Being smart health care consumers has always been a natural fit.
  • A unique and multi-channeled communication approach.
  • 54 percent participant adoption in the first year.

We encourage other cooperative members to try the same intensive communication tactics to encourage CDHP enrollment.


Learn More about CDHPs



Benefit Plan Design


Members & Employers


Benefit Plan Design


Members & Employers
Jerry Ward

Jerry Ward
Guest Blogger, Vice President of Operations at Seats Incorporated

Ward worked for Seats Incorporated since 1980 in a variety of leadership positions, including controller and general manager. His latest position involved planning and implementation of the company’s manufacturing, scheduling, and purchasing. He also had the responsibility of financial and information system functions, including employee benefit administration. Jerry served on The Alliance Board of Directors from 1999 – 2008 and served as Chair in 2001 and 2005.

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