Employers prefer paper-based approach for open enrollment
Fewer than half of businesses use technology to handle annual enrollment or manage time off, Affordable Care Act reporting or benefits changes during the year, according to a recent white paper by one of the nation’s leading ancillary benefits providers.
Citing a 2017 LIMRA report entitled “Convenient and Connected: Employers and Benefits,” Colonial Life highlighted several reasons why employers are resisting the digital age. They believe their organization isn’t big enough (32%), a technology solution is too expensive (24%), they don’t have enough staff (16%), in-person meetings are more engaging, or it’s the preference of their broker or plan administrator (tied at 15%).
In fact, Colonial Life post-enrollment surveys from 2009 to 2016 show that 98% of employees understand their benefits better through 1-to-1 benefits counseling and 95% describe the personalized attention they received as valuable.
Steven Johnson, vice president in premier markets and enrollment solutions at Colonial Life, was surprised by the prevalence of “manual and outdated ways.” However, he also understands the tendency to resist change— noting, for example, how some people still maintain landlines in spite of a reliance on smartphones for calls, text, e-mail, social media and GPS directions.
“Slow adoption of technology can be especially true in the workplace,” he says. “Heavy dependence of the fax machine at many workplaces still baffles me with so much advanced technology available to perform the job better, faster and cheaper.”
For those employers looking to add capabilities to their benefits technology programs, the report noted that LIMRA found most cited cost reduction (36%) or control of benefit data (35%). Rounding out the list was reduced staff time (32%), improved benefits communications (29%) and better employee experience (27%).
Among the features most sought after for either benefits administration systems, enrollment technology or both, LIMRA said low cost led the way (87%), followed by data security (86%), ease of use for employees (85%), it’s accessible all year (80%), employees re-enrolled annually or all insurance benefits are on the same platform (77% apiece).
Colonial Life stressed the importance of providing personalized resource materials, such as web content, e-mails and one-to-one meetings, as well as ample time for employees to make wise choices for themselves and dependents. Another recommendation was that insurance carriers make available benefits counselors to help guide employees through their decisions.
Johnson urged benefit brokers and advisers to help educate their clients on affordable enrollment technology solutions that will greatly enhance the experience for their employees while also reducing administrative burdens and challenges for employers and plan administrators.
“A trusted benefits adviser can share case study examples from companies of similar size and industry to illustrate the benefits of adopting a benefits admin solution for enrollment,” he says. In addition, he suggests that employee survey feedback can be shared to help advance the argument that “the overall experience is far better for those who’ve used technology to help them make their important benefits decisions.”