“Yeah, but our employees are different” is a response I often hear when chatting with an employer about various healthcare strategies to improve employee interaction with the healthcare system. I know it is easy to think that your employees are unique but I am here to tell you otherwise.

Your employees are not different. They’re like every other employee in America who is struggling to navigate an opaque healthcare system without a clue as to the quality and price of the services they are purchasing.

They are like every other employee in America who is coming to grips with the fact that they cannot afford to cover the health plan’s out of pocket limit should a healthcare event happen to them. Your employees are like every other employee in America who would like to know why they’re continually told to pay more for less.

This is their reality, and as much as you want to think your workforce is different, they are not. What is different is the continued growth of their out of pocket limit and the amount coming out of their paycheck every month. Today, far too many employers continue to take a “paternal” approach to their health plan like a parent who runs a household without rules.

What you believe to be a good health plan is allowing consumer behavior and your healthcare costs to spiral out of control. Your employees have no clue how to navigate a huge PPO network where they can go wherever they want and spend whatever they want. What you believe is “choice” is nothing more than frustration and stress for your employees.

I know you’ve been told that a high-deductible health plan would magically turn the workforce into smart consumers but it doesn’t. Instead, employees are forgoing healthcare services out of fear of the financial consequences. If you genuinely want to take a paternal (or maternal) approach to your health plan, it must have rules that have been created in the best interests of your employees’ health and finances.

Believe it or not, the stress around healthcare decisions lightens when employees know the rules. No, I’m not talking about denying or limiting coverage. I’m talking about making right healthcare decisions easy and bad healthcare decisions hard.

The best way to treat your employees like they’re unique and different is to provide them with a world-class health plan that allows them to access high-quality care at little to no cost. Eliminate an employee’s financial responsibility when accessing a Center of Excellence or an active drug and you will create a workforce that understands what it means to be unique.

If we are going to fix this mess we call healthcare, it must start with a change in the way employers approach health plan design. When you make it easy for employees to pay less for more you will finally have a workforce and a health plan that is truly different.