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Voluntary benefits increasingly important to employers

Voluntary benefits are becoming increasingly important in the effort to attract and retain top employees, and the Affordable Care Act hasn’t discouraged employers from that way of thinking. Seventy-one percent of employers said voluntary benefits improve employee morale and satisfaction — a 13% increase from 2010 — the last time LIMRA surveyed employers. Read More

Educating clients on the employer mandate: The next steps

The highly anticipated 2015 start date for the Affordable Care Act’s so-called employer mandate is here. Benefit advisers and their employer clients have likely spent countless hours preparing to meet the requirements of the ACA’s employer shared responsibility rule, but there’s still plenty of work to do. Read More

Enrollments costing brokers time, money

As if employee benefit brokers and advisers in California haven’t had enough uphill battles trying to preserve their standing along the changing HIX landscape, some of them also now have to worry about being paid for helping enroll more than 500,000 residents in the state-run public exchange. But at least one industry insider believes it’s much ado about nothing. Read More

Cadillac tax, wellness program clarity top employer priorities

Congress’ first week was a busy one, as new lawmakers worked to make changes to the Affordable Care Act — changes employers should bear in mind as they develop their benefit plan and ACA compliance strategies in the coming year. Read More

Open enrollment communications must move beyond status quo

In a perfect world, big decisions would be allowed a lot of time to be made and come with all the pertinent information. Or, even better, decision time and support would be proportional to the impact. However, in today’s uncertain and rapidly changing business environment, such luxuries are rare. Read More

MetLife Study: Employers are between a benefits
rock and a budget hard place

The annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends which tracks major trends and attitudes on the subject of employee benefits was recently released and it has a good news/bad news message for employers.

First the good news: It seems the turbulent economy, while bad for just about everything else, is actually good for benefits. Nearly two-thirds of employers - across all sizes of companies, see economic conditions as a catalyst for increasing employee dependence on benefits. And they also recognize that this creates greater opportunity for benefits to drive business objectives.

The bad news? Just as the opportunity for benefits is increasing, 40% of employers report they are very concerned about their ability to sustain their benefits program in the face of budget constraints. And the study also finds that employee loyalty is continuing the downward trend seen in previous years; in fact, loyalty towards employers is now at a seven year low. For one-in-three employees, this translates into a desire to be working somewhere else in 2012 – especially if they are part of Generation Y where the percentage with one foot out the door rises to 54%.

Since the study confirms a strong connection between benefits satisfaction and job satisfaction, it makes sense for employers to take advantage of this period of positive engagement with benefits to try and reverse these retention challenges. The study offers some insights on how this can be done without busting the budget by looking at how employers who recognize this window of opportunity - identified as progressives in the study - are thinking and acting differently compared with those who do not embrace the opportunity - identified as standards. (Progressive employers were those whose survey responses show that they agree that current economic conditions create opportunity for benefits to improve employee attraction, retention and productivity.)

Here are a few of the ways that Progressive employers stand out in the benefits arena:

  • Progressives clearly see the value of benefits for employee retention and attraction and are more than twice as likely as standard employers to say that benefits are a very important reason employees come to work for them and remain with them.

  • Progressives look beyond providing medical insurance in the post-health care reform world. The study finds that most employers underestimate the ability of non-medical benefits to drive loyalty, but 61% of progressives foresee non-medical benefits (life, dental and disability) becoming more important benefits strategies in the next five years compared with 28% of standards.

  • Progressives are more tuned into the business costs of employee financial insecurity and are exploring financial wellness programs to help employees obtain greater financial security. For example 71% see opportunity in providing financial education in the workplace compared with 35% of standard employers.

  • Progressives are also more tuned into the generational implications of benefits. The study finds that, thanks to a disproportionate impact of the recession on young adults, Gen Y employees are much more motivated by benefits than might be expected; 63% agree that benefits are an important reason why they remain with their employer and 66% say they are counting more than ever on their employer for help in achieving financial security. Forty percent of progressives see this opportunity to use benefits to appeal to younger workers compared with 15% of standard employers.

  • Progressives are nearly twice as likely to recognize significant employee interest in voluntary benefits, especially among younger employees, and to see the potential for using these products as a way to offer the benefits that employees want and need within budget constraints.

Benefits opportunities for employers are also opportunities for brokers and consultants to bring the implications of the Study findings to the attention of their clients and to encourage movement towards a more Progressive outlook.

Employee satisfaction is primary driver of employers’ voluntary benefits

Although many companies continue to tighten their financial belts, when it comes to voluntary benefits, employers are much more employee focused, as opposed to cost driven. Seventy-five percent of employers say their top reason for offering voluntary benefits is to expand the benefits options available to their employees, with 42% offering voluntary benefits to fulfill an employee need, and 30% offering them at their employees’ request, according to a study released yesterday by Prudential.

Voluntary benefits are optional programs that are made available at the workplace and 100% paid for by employees. Eighty-five percent of employers say they offer one or more voluntary benefits including life insurance (63%), disability insurance (56%) and dental insurance (52%). Ranking lower on their priority list were critical illness insurance (35%) and long-term care insurance (33%).

“For employees, the benefits offer a convenient and affordable way to purchase life, disability, long-term care, dental and vision insurance, while offsetting the income-related risks of a disability, long-term illness or the death of the family member,” says Jim Gemus, senior vice president of Prudential Group Insurance.

Employees increasingly view the workplace as an important source for personal insurance and savings products. Half (51%) of workers cited convenience as the most common advantage and driving factor in purchasing voluntary benefits because they pay for them through payroll deduction, representing a nine-point increase since the study was conducted in 2008. Fifty-two percent feel that offering voluntary benefits increases the value of their company’s offerings.

The study found a correlation between voluntary benefits offerings and employee satisfaction. For employers, employee satisfaction is the top gauge of success (47%) followed by achieving a certain set participation rate (34%). Gemus notes, “Employees’ increasing interest and knowledge of their benefits options, combined with employers’ renewed focus on employee satisfaction is a win-win situation for all.

Workers flounder with health care decision

Open enrollment deadlines are just around the corner, and a new survey suggests the choices aren’t getting any easier for many workers.

According to a report from Aetna, Americans rank choosing health care benefits as the second most difficult life decision, behind only saving for retirement. Aetna’s survey shows those who stress over health benefits decisions cite confusing and complicated information (88%), conflicted data (84%) and difficulty knowing which plan is right for them (83%).

“The … results showed that consumers understand the importance of health benefits. However, they don’t feel they have the resources they need to make an educated decision,” says Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna’s chairman and CEO “We need to make the process of choosing and using health benefits easier for consumers.”

Conducted in July with results released last week, the survey finds Americans split on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, though 75% think that all of its key elements are important for them or their families. Forty-one percent of respondents said they need more information on health care reform to understand its impact.

Reducing medical costs remains a major economic and political issue, even though 42% of Americans reportedly never or rarely monitor out-of-pocket health care expenses. This is despite the fact that more than one in five respondents had to dip into their savings in the past year to help cover medical bills.

The survey further finds that more than 40% of respondents have skipped a prescription dose, halted their medication or delayed a needed medical procedure. What’s worse, those in fair or poor health (76%) or with chronic conditions (57%) are the most likely to engage in those dangerous behaviors.

Wendy Shanahan-Richards, national medical director for Aetna, says the survey illustrates the need for health plans data to walk the line between concise and digestible and thorough and comprehensive information.

“The [survey] results help us better understand the challenges that consumers are facing today,” Shanahan-Richards says. “We want to arm consumers with as much useful, easy-to-understand information as possible to help them make more informed health benefits choices and take better control of their health.”

Source: Employee Benefit News

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