- Employees spend just 18 minutes on average enrolling in their benefits, far short of the four hours spent by the average consumer when deciding to purchase mobile phone, according to a report by benefits administration technology firm PlanSource. The company compiled the report based on anonymous user data from its own platform, it said in a statement, representing 92 million benefits elections made in the system.
- PlanSource said employees also tend to wait until the end of the enrollment period to enroll, and that employers attempted to counteract this via technology that both personalizes and makes benefits more engaing. Employers are also offering a wider variety of benefits, per the report, with large companies offering a large variety of plans and benefits.
- The report also found that the cost of providing medical insurance continues to rise; among companies using PlanSource, premiums rose 8% to 9% in 2018. Employers also increasingly offered health savings accounts (HSAs), which increased by 125% from 2016 to 2018. HSA contributions to HSAs also increased, with employers contributing $992 on average in 2018 and employees contributing $2,076, PlanSource said.
Many employees report that they struggle with the benefits enrollment process, particularly when there are many hoops to jump through during enrollment. In fact, more than 40% of employees in a 2018 Health Advocate survey said they found dealing with multiple benefits vendors to be confusing. At the same time, 78% of employers in the survey offered workers live support services to help navigate their benefits.
These trends seem to reflect what experts in the benefits space have been saying for the past few years: improving benefits engagement involves making benefits easier to use, understand and elect. As a result, vendors have shifted their focus to making the process more intuitive and, in some cases, even fun.
"The trends we see in the Benchmark Report make it clear that employees need an engaging retail shopping experience for their benefits," Nancy Sansom, chief commercial officer at PlanSource, said in a statement. "And considering the rising cost of insurance, companies need to make the most of this short window of time and create new and innovative ways to communicate with and educate employees about their benefits."
Research shows employers may find success in improving engagement via multiple avenues. In the Health Advocate survey, employers cited strategies including intranets and newsletters (78%); events and meetings (67%); contributions to flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) (65%); and incentives, such as reduced insurance premiums, cash and gifts (54%). There are also tech solutions to consider. A little over one-third of respondents to a UnitedHealthcare survey said they had compared healthcare plans by doing research on the internet or on mobile apps. A study by Paychex found 73% of full-time employees want and expect to have 24/7 access to their benefits.