State of Texas

Shifting Behaviors • Program Subscribers

ERS, the administrator of the State of Texas’s defined benefit (health and retirement insurance for state employees and higher education employees) program has looked to research three times since 2006 to address critical, dollar-laden challenges. Initially, ERS sought to drive development and implementation of strategic public relations and marketing campaigns to reach the following goals:

  • Help state employees and retirees realize the value of their benefits package
  • Help state employees and retirees understand why the cost of providing healthcare is rising and how their lifestyles and choices affect those costs
  • Help state employees and retirees prepare for the significant changes in the way they access healthcare (e.g., using health savings accounts instead of a traditional health plan)

The research firm employed onsite roundtable discussions at universities, prisons and other state properties to explore key issues. A comprehensive web-based survey was used to quantify perceptions, points of pushback and awareness of resources to design and deliver a cost-effective promotions campaign among State employees with a subsample of mailed surveys sent to program beneficiaries.


Results, Part I

The system’s agency established internal communications vehicles available in a variety of formats (beneficiary’s choice) and designed to share information that was of interest to employees. The online resource was significantly enhanced to respond to employees’ evidenced preferences for exploring insurance and retirement options on their own.

The second information need was focused on addressing resistance by pharmacists and employees to mail order prescription programs. Information addressed included:

  • Key issues/problems pharmacists had been experiencing
  • Perceptions and problems associated with prescriptions by mail
  • Reactions to suggestions that pharmacists should be reimbursed for counseling customers in reference to health issues and prescriptions

In-depth interviews of key opinion leaders along with two bulletin boards of pharmacists (mass merchandisers, chain pharmacies, independents and food distribution chains) – all located throughout Texas – revealed that inadequate communication by all parties had resulted in significant patient confusion, lack of confidence and credibility, misunderstandings, disappointments and frustration.


Results, Part II

The firm charged with the responsibility of smoothing communications simplified plans and explanations to increase employee and retiree understanding of their healthcare and drug plans and how they work. Improved message consistency and communications reinforcement across multiple avenues – website, newsletters, meeting presentations, etc. alleviated patient confusion. Comprehensive response documents were developed to communicate clearly and bring legislators and pharmacist representation together. Additionally, a report was developed to deliver to the Legislature.

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