Open Enrollment Data Insight: 3 Key Themes for Benefit Professionals in 2018

Open Enrollment Data Insight: 3 Key Themes for Benefit Professionals in 2018

Over the past several weeks, we've shared some of the key findings from Benefitfocus' State of Employee Benefits 2018 research, and we've discussed how they reflect specific trends in the benefits industry.

But what does it all really mean for today's benefit professionals? What can employers, their brokers and advisors take away – and act on – from the latest data on benefit offerings and participation?

We've boiled it down to three key themes:

1. Benefit options are everything.

Health plan enrollment election data from the 2018 State of Employee Benefits report continues to illustrate that different coverage levels appeal to different employees based on their life situation—namely, their age (i.e., risk aversion) and income (i.e., risk capacity).

The implications for employers are clear: their employees – and prospective employees – want and need benefit options to stay happy, healthy and productive.

Delivering those options starts with being thoughtful about health plan offerings, recognizing that some employees are better suited to take on higher out-of-pocket costs than others. The majority of large employers are doing this, as State of Employee Benefits data reflects a commitment to maintaining a degree of choice in health plans.

Of course, there are limits to that degree of choice. As health care costs continue to grow year after year, we're seeing high out-of-pocket obligations for employees becoming the norm regardless of medical plan type.

And that’s why voluntary benefits like accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity make sense as options to supplement health care coverage and provide additional financial cushion to protect against the unexpected. Currently, according to State of Employee Benefits data, a little less than half of large employers are offering at least one of these products.

Not every employee is going to need an accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity plan, but for the ones that do, these benefits can be a game-changer—and at little or no cost to the employer. There remains a long runway of opportunity for employers to incorporate these products into their benefits package.

But the greatest opportunity for employers to provide value in benefit options to employees lies in the more non-traditional voluntary benefits that have begun to emerge—what some may refer to as "lifestyle" benefits. These are products like identity protection, legal insurance, pet insurance, student loan assistance and so forth—benefits that can really help employers grab candidates’ attention and keep current employees satisfied in their jobs.

With these additional benefit options, employers are not just helping employees with their health care costs; they're helping them navigate some of the other important problems they face—other sources of financial stress and anxiety that can prevent them from having a productive and fulfilling employment experience.

Download the full State of Employee Benefits 2018 report to see the relevant data for yourself!

2. Personalization makes perfect.

Benefit options are great, but they have to be the right options. And then the right options have to be matched to the right individual employee. This is where personalization comes into play.

When it comes to determining the right options for an employer to offer, a lot of it depends on the demographic makeup of the particular workforce—what makes sense based on the unique mix of age, income level, lifestyle, etc. All of these things influence the needs, preferences and expectations of the workforce. Employers really have to get to know their employees to understand the types of benefits that will provide them with the most value.

Data can be a big help in this effort. With accurate information on demographic breakdown, how employees are using their current benefits, what’s driving health care costs and where coverage gaps exist, employers and their brokers can be empowered to make smart decisions about what products and programs they should be offering to the group—to personalize the benefits package for the organization.

But once a well-tailored offering is in place, employees still need to be able to determine what options from that offering are best for them individually.

Data can also help here on two fronts.

First, with the ability to capture employee demographic information and use it to segment audiences for benefits communication, employers can deliver messages that will resonate with workers on a personal level. They can promote specific benefit offerings to specific groups of employees based on their likely needs, and highlight the value certain benefits can bring in real-life situations (e.g., how investing in a health savings account now can provide young workers a nest egg to pay for health care costs in retirement).

Second, incorporating data into the benefits enrollment experience can give employees greater context in which to make their elections. Things like demographic information, employees' reported risk tolerance, and national-average and/or personal medical claims history can all be used to support the decision-making process and guide employees to the right combination of benefits and coverage for their individual needs. 

Learn more about personalizing the benefits experience in the on-demand webinar, Open Enrollment Blueprint: Simple Steps for Big Results.

3. Complexity requires simplicity.

But the thing about offering options and personalization is that it can add a lot of complexity to the benefits administration process.

Having a robust benefits package can mean having to manage multiple vendors across multiple systems, with limited data integration. And that can create a range of frustrating and painful benefits administration headaches—the clunky manual processes, the poor data quality, the high potential for mistakes.

And it’s equally frustrating for employees. Having to navigate multiple websites and accounts with different login information (which inevitably is forgotten) makes it hard for them to get the intended value from their benefits—much less understand that value.

The answer is to fight complexity with simplicity, to: consolidate the different systems both administrators and employees have to work with to manage benefits; automate time-consuming processes and eliminate error-prone manual workarounds; and integrate technology and services to more accurately and efficiently manage things like billing and payment processes—things that get more complicated the more a benefits program evolves.

That’s why leading employers and their advisors are turning to enterprise-grade benefits management technology—to continue to evolve their benefit programs with a single partner to help them:

  • Communicate effectively with employees
  • Guide smart benefits enrollment decisions
  • Execute a robust voluntary benefits strategy
  • Automate administrative tasks and streamline complex processes
  • Turn benefits data into cost-saving insight

Learn more about how enterprise benefits technology can help organizations transform their benefits into an employee's dream, without creating an administrative nightmare, in this free guide from Benefitfocus.