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How to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Through Health Benefits

Lauren Hargrave · February 2, 2024 · 8 min read


The evidence is clear, companies that consistently invest in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies and practices outperform companies that don’t. They’re more innovative, resilient, they enjoy better organizational health and have stronger financial performance than companies that don’t focus on DEI efforts. They are also winning the war for talent. 

If you’re a company leader who is looking to develop your DEI plan or bolster the policies you already have in-place, it might be helpful to evaluate your health benefits. Not only are health benefits one of the most important factors in employee satisfaction, providing the right ones can help improve your bottom line. The “right” health benefits are plans that go beyond general health services and provide comprehensive support for your employees’ physical, mental and financial well-being. In this post we’ll share the steps that you can take to evaluate your current offerings, measure them against the needs of your workforce, and find the benefits solutions that can help you meet those needs.

1. Evaluate who is using health benefits to discover what is accessible

To get to the right benefits package that will support the diverse needs of your team and meaningfully advance  DEI, you must first evaluate your current offerings. This will enable you to compare what you offer against the needs your employees communicate. 

The first step is to conduct an audit of your current benefits offerings. Who is using them? You’ll want to break down benefits usage on an income level and demographic level if possible. Is there an employee demographic that is under-using the benefits? Are your benefits primarily being used by team members in a higher income bracket?

Once you’ve completed your audit, survey employees about your current benefits package. Ask them about their perceived holes in the plans; which needs are being met and which aren’t. Ask them what they’re struggling with outside of work. Send an additional survey to the employees that seem to be under-utilizing the benefits to assess the reasons why.

2. When discussing health benefits, engage with diverse team members

Once you’ve identified the holes in your benefits offerings, collect a diverse team to discuss solutions to this problem. A diverse team would be one that included members from different racial and ethnic groups, the LGBTQ+ community, different genders (including non-binary team members), parents and non-parents, people at different phases of their careers, and people with disabilities. 

By incorporating as many representatives of employee groups into your benefits committee, you will receive the most comprehensive and valuable feedback about the types of benefits that are most important to their needs and what those benefits should cover. Not only will you be more likely to make better benefits decisions, but these employees can help you craft your communications so that key demographics are aware of what is available and how to access it.

3. Make changes to the benefits you offer

Once you’ve identified the holes in your benefits and the solutions you want to employ, it’s time to make the actual changes to your benefits. That could look like adding coverage for services like fertility and gender affirming care to your current health insurance plan, or it could look like changing carriers completely to one that offers more inclusive plans. Here are some benefits that you want to make sure are covered:

  • Virtual care

  • Mental health care

  • Chronic conditions management

  • Gender affirming care

  • Reproductive health

  • Screenings

  • Preventative care

In addition to offering an all-encompassing group health plan that includes the above, you could add the option of a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA). With an HDHP, preventative care is covered at 100% prior to the deductible being met and chronic condition management is now considered preventative care. For other services, employees have a tax-free way to save and pay for the healthcare services and treatments that are important to them. Employer contributions to HSAs have been shown to help improve employee adoption of this benefit and can lead to higher employee contribution levels.

You’ll want to make sure your health benefits cover non-traditional family structures like:

  • Blended families: those with stepchildren and half siblings

  • Multiple generational households

  • Cohabitating parents that aren’t married

  • Same-sex partner families that aren’t married

  • Single-parent families

  • Family-by-choice units

Another option is to add benefits like Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts or Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSAs) to help employees pay for costs that affect certain demographics like:

Regardless of how you modify your benefits offerings, you want to make sure they support employees’ physical health, financial health and their mental health. Affordability of benefits is still a significant challenge for employees as 49% find it difficult to meet household expenses on time each month.

4. Offer accessible health benefits education

Offering supportive benefits will only enhance your DEI efforts if employees engage with them. And in order for employees to engage with them, they have to know which plans are available and how they will add value to employees’ lives. That’s where employee education comes in.

In order to get employees to sign up for valuable benefits during open enrollment and keep them engaged with the benefits throughout the plan year, employers should utilize online collaboration channels like Slack, company intranet sites, and landing pages. This will give the benefits team multiple touchpoints through which to communicate the different value propositions of the various plans. 

When crafting your benefits’ communications make sure to use simple language, avoid jargon, and otherwise write them in an accessible way. The message should be easy to understand regardless of native language, literacy level and health and financial literacy level.  One way to help ensure your employee education is accessible is to use the diverse team you collected to assess benefits solutions. Have these employees help you focus your messaging on the use cases and value propositions as they relate to the various demographics you’re trying to target.

5. Provide transportation benefits for healthcare

Unfortunately for many employees, employer-sponsored benefits aren’t enough to ensure they actually have access to the care they need. In fact, 21% of Americans skipped getting the medical treatment they needed in 2022 because they lacked the transportation to get there. And members of this 21% are more likely to be families with low incomes, adults with disabilities, and adults from low income families, which are many of the demographics DEI efforts target.

So if companies want their DEI efforts to be successful, they have to ensure their employees have access to the transportation needed to utilize their benefits. If medical travel expenses are not covered by their insurance carrier, they can offer a Medical Travel Account (MTA). This type of voluntary benefit is an account into which employers deposit money for employees to use to travel to their needed medical treatment. Types of eligible travel include: ride services like Uber, taxis, bus fare, train fare, necessary airplane travel and hotel (if an overnight stay is warranted), mileage on their personal car, renting a car, and more. 

Employers have a vested interest in getting employees to the care they need because employees that don’t have access to transportation, will put off receiving treatment. That means they are less likely to be physically healthy, which means they might take more sick days or be less productive overall. 

Ways Lively can help

Lively offers a suite of flexible employee benefits like HSAs, FSAs, LSAs and MTAs that can help employers put together the most effective benefits package possible. Many of our plans are customizable so employers can target specific needs of specific demographics in order to further their DEI efforts. Are products are also easy to use and understand and we offer onboarding and employee education support to help ensure your team knows exactly how to use their benefit and get the most value out of the experience.

We also offer employers best-in-class customer support to help your team be as successful as possible.

Get started today!

Lively is your partner in offering comprehensive and supportive benefits that fit within your budget. We’ll work with your resources to help you meet the needs of your employees and achieve your organizational goals, all while containing your health insurance spend. If you’re ready to level-up your benefits package and super charge your DEI initiatives, reach out today.

Lauren Hargrave

Lauren Hargrave

Lauren Hargrave is a writer from San Francisco who focuses on technology, finance and wellness. She follows comedians like most people follow bands and believes an outdoor sweat session can cure almost any bad mood. She’s also been writing her first novel for so long, her mom doesn’t ask about it anymore.

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Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.



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