At Benefitfocus, 'Summer Vacation' Means Learning from Customers
  • Industry Trends & Insights

At Benefitfocus, 'Summer Vacation' Means Learning from Customers

For students, summer is a time to take a break from education. For Benefitfocus, it's a time to learn as much as possible.

Every summer, we travel (or 'vacation') all across the country for our One Place Local customer events, where we meet with small groups of Benefitfocus customers located in the same area to learn more about how they're using our solutions, discuss industry trends and best practices, and gather feedback we use to guide the direction of our products and services.

From Phoenix to Buffalo, this year's events featured well over 100 HR and benefits leaders in total sharing their insight and expertise with each other and with us. As the summer draws to a close and we conclude our 2018 One Place Local customer series, here are a few of the major recurring themes that emerged from our discussions:

1. Employers can do something about rising health care costs.

Rising health care costs are the problem of our lifetime. Employers in the U.S. are spending $1.6 trillion on health care annually, or roughly $12,000 per employee.1 Health care spending is growing faster than both GDP and employee wages, and there's currently no national solution to the problem on the horizon. However, self-insured employers can take steps to optimize their health plans to at least contain costs and slow their personal rate of growth.

New data analytics tools are empowering employers to be proactive about their health care spending, with the ability to, among other things:

  • Identify and track primary cost drivers so they know where to intervene
  • Model plan design changes and evaluate the impacts to spending
  • Measure the effectiveness of wellness, disease management and/or case management vendors

Learn more about how employers can measure, manage and ultimately master the cost curve in this on-demand webcast featuring Benefitfocus data analytics experts.

2. Employees bear a heavy financial burden for health care.

Of course, part of employers' attempts to control health care spending has been in the form of shifting costs onto employees.

According to Benefitfocus' latest State of Employee Benefits research, 70 percent of large employers now offer at least one high-deductible health plan (HDHP)—with an average deductible of roughly $2,200 for single coverage and $4,300 for family coverage. And even traditional health plans carry high out-of-pocket risk for employees, as average deductibles for PPO plans have skyrocketed in recent years and are now barely lower than what qualifies for HDHP status.

Couple that with fairly stagnant wage growth, and it’s safe to say that, when it comes to health care, today’s employees are being asked to bear a heavy financial burden. And they need some help.

For more insight on benefits offering and participation trends, download the full State of Employee Benefits 2018 report. 

3. Voluntary benefits are key to talent attraction and retention.

As employees take on higher health care costs, it's increasingly important for employers to offer them ways to supplement their medical coverage and protect their financial well-being. Not doing so can jeopardize a company's ability to attract and retain top talent. 

Voluntary benefits like accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance have become crucial pieces of a modern benefits package, enabling employees to have a financial safety net in the event of an unexpected medical situation. Telehealth services and prescription drug discount programs provide additional, much-needed assistance to employees dealing with significant out-of-pocket expenses.

Beyond products focused on financial wellness in the context of health care, other voluntary benefits and programs – such as student loan refinancing and assistance, identity theft protection, and legal insurance – are becoming more common in the workplace, as companies understand employees' need for and expectation of benefits that provide coverage for every aspect and every stage of life.

And with solutions like Benefitfocus BenefitsPlace™, it's never been easier for companies to offer these and other benefit products that can help them stand out as "employers of choice" in the battle for top talent.

Check out the full BenefitsPlace Catalog today, and learn how you and your broker can design a comprehensive benefits package that meets the needs of employees without added administrative burden.

4. Employees want and need a personalized benefits experience.

With additional benefits options comes the magnified importance of how those options are presented to employees. And that comes down to the enrollment technology.

Employees expect the same empowerment in their work lives that technology affords them in their personal lives. Workers are increasingly expecting their work technology to be as useful and convenient as their consumer technology, providing a personalized experience that presents relevant information and the actions they should take in an easy-to-understand format.

When it comes to benefits, employees are in desperate need of tools to help them make smart decisions. According to Aflac, less than a quarter of employees fully understand their benefits, with the vast majority pointing to a lack of decision-support resources during the benefits enrollment process.2

With user-focused benefits technology that guides employees through the enrollment process and enables data-driven decisions based on their specific circumstances (i.e., age, family situation, health risk, etc.), employers can make sure that employees are choosing and using the right benefits for their needs.

Hear QBE Insurance Group discuss how they transformed their enrollment experience to improve employee engagement and understanding of their benefits.

5. Benefit professionals must get more strategic about employee communications.

It's one thing for a company to offer good benefits, and another thing for employees to understand that the company offers good benefits—and understand the value those benefits can bring to their lives. That's why communication is to important to the success of a benefits program. 

But currently, according to Aflac, over half of employees say they don't fully understand their benefits. Furthermore, 72 percent of employees view benefits as a complicated and stressful subject.2 Not exactly a positive perception.

To better sell employees on their benefits package, employers can approach employee communication more like a marketing activity. Focusing on the marketing principle of getting the right message to the right person at the right time, benefit professionals can help each and every employee extract the most value from their benefits.

But for the right message to truly resonate with the right employees at the right time, the message has to be conveyed the right way. That means benefit professionals must take the time to figure out which types of communications are the most appropriate for different segments of an increasingly diverse workforce.

Learn how you can build a comprehensive open enrollment communications plan that addresses the varying needs of your workforce in Benefitfocus' 2018 Open Enrollment Success Kit.

Join us at One Place Local!

Not a Benefitfocus customer? We've got a One Place Local series for you, too—join us at an upcoming event in a city near you!


1. Tabulation from Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts of the US and Department of Labor, BLS, CPI

2. Aflac Workforces Report