Top Employee Benefits Topics of 2017

Top 5 Employee Benefits Topics of the Summer, According to Our Customers

As summer draws to a close, let's look back and reflect on what the season has given us.

For many, summer brought much-needed vacations, cherished time with loved ones and outdoor adventures. And for all of us at Benefitfocus, it brought plenty of insight from our customer community.

Throughout the summer, we visited with customers across the country – from Seattle to Tampa – for our One Place Local event series. These events are an opportunity for Benefitfocus customers located in the same area to get together, network, share ideas and collaborate on common challenges, as well as to provide valuable feedback we use to guide the direction of our products and services. 

After wrapping up this year's events with a trip to the Chicago area, here are a few of the major recurring themes that arose from discussions among more than 100 benefit professionals over the last few months:

1. Consumer-driven heath care continues to expand.

In recent years, we've seen a significant shift in health plan design to put more financial responsibility on employees. And that burden continues to get heavier.

According to Benefitfocus' annual State of Employee Benefits report, 60 percent of large employer health plan offerings now include at least one high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The average deductible for one of these plans at the family coverage level is approximately $4,500 – almost two times higher than the IRS's $2,600 minimum deductible for an HDHP.

Even the more traditional health plans have kicked up their out-of-pocket costs, as well. The average deductible for a PPO family-coverage plan increased 10 percent from 2016 to nearly $2,500, putting it within arm's reach of the IRS HDHP minimum.

Get the full State of Employee Benefits report here!

The good news is that health spending accounts such as HSAs and FSAs, as well as voluntary benefits like accident and critical illness insurance, can help employees navigate their health care costs and minimize financial risk. But employers agree that communicating these benefits and their value to employees can be challenging.

That's why...

2. Benefits communication has to get more creative and proactive.

When it comes to communicating benefits, you have two major things going against you:

  1. Benefits are complex. Many employees are unable to correctly define basic health insurance terminology, let alone understand what their benefit options really mean for them.
  2. Your employees face a daily barrage of communication from all angles. Their email inboxes are overflowing, their smartphones are constantly buzzing and their social media feeds refresh every second. There's a lot of noise for you to contest with to be heard.

To win the battle for your employees' attention – to connect with them and guide them to smart benefit decisions – you really have to overhaul your communication strategy and think more like a marketing professional.

By taking a page or two from the marketing playbook, you can cut through the communication clutter, simplify complex topics and ultimately drive meaningful action among your workforce. Not only that, you'll get back the time you've traditionally spent answering the same employee questions during open enrollment, because you'll have a multimedia communication plan that starts well in advance of your open enrollment period for maximum reach and impact.

Get proven communication tips and techniques in this on-demand webcast featuring the Benefitfocus marketing team!

3. Mobile-friendly benefits technology is a must-have.

Did you know that...

  • 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone1
  • 51 percent own a tablet computer1
  • 42 percent of internet traffic in the U.S. is via mobile device2

The result is that your employees have come to expect on-demand access to information. Increasingly, their mobile devices are their lifeline to managing the most important things in their lives: relationships with friends and family, work, bank accounts, etc.

Benefits should be part of that list. Being able to share benefits information via mobile device, and allow employees to enroll in and manage their benefits via mobile device, is essential to not only meeting your workers' expectations, but also helping them more easily navigate their benefits with anytime, anywhere access.

This is especially important if you have a largely distributed or on-the-go workforce, where many employees don't have daily access to traditional computers.

4. Better data transparency drives better decisions.

You can't manage what you can't measure.

As benefit professionals look to become more strategically minded, access to good data is essential to informed decision-making.

Whether it's being able to track open enrollment progress in real time, or to proactively identify emerging trends in health plan utilization, on-demand data transparency can help you understand what action you may need to take to keep your benefits program going in the right direction.

But having ready access to the data is only part of the equation. In order for the data to be useful, it needs to be presented in a way that's easy to digest.

That means dashboard-like views with data visualization tools that gives you a clear picture of what's going on, without even having to run a report. And when you do need to run a report, the report is simple to create, and the product is something that even an entry-level benefits professional can understand.

Learn more about how to use your benefits data to drive smart decisions in this on-demand webcast!

5. For better or worse, ACA is still the law of the land.

With the Senate failing to get any ACA repeal bill passed this summer, the law known as Obamacare remains unchanged... for now.

We're seeing the beginnings of bipartisan work in Congress to improve the ACA, while the White House continues to call for nothing less than complete "repeal and replace."

For better or worse, we're still in wait-and-see mode. The bottom line is that the ACA is still the law of the land. And with the busy open enrollment season approaching, employers will need to stay the course for now.

The focus remains on combating rising health care costs, diversifying their benefit programs, and improving employee engagement and decision making.

But that doesn't mean you can take your eye off of Washington. The good news is, we're here to help you stay in the know.

Hear from health policy expert Chris Condeluci on next steps for the ACA in this on-demand webcast!

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1. Pew Research Center: Record shares of Americans now own smartphones, have home broadband

2. StatCounter: Mobile and tablet internet usage exceeds desktop for first time worldwide