By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
To improve their employees’ health care experience, employers say offering or expanding benefit choices is their single highest priority (31 percent) over the next three years, according to recent research from Willis Towers Watson. The “Choice and Personalization” findings from the 2019 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey found that employers are confident they have not overwhelmed employees and offer the right number of benefit choices (74 percent).
“Every employee’s benefit needs are unique, and each is looking for a benefit package to address their individual priorities,” said Kevin House, national leader of client relationships and sales for health benefits delivery at Willis Towers Watson. “With five distinct generations in today’s workforce, most companies have vastly different populations—from stage-of-life perspective to health situations. The challenge for employers is to offer both the options that address a diverse set of employee needs and the tools that make those choices easy to navigate and understand.”
Decision support. The survey found that over the next three years, 75 percent plan to prioritize efforts to provide employees with the tools they need to make smart benefit choices and personalize a benefit package that best suits their situation. Today, just over half of employers (55 percent) provide benefit decision tools.
Up to now, providing employees with tools to make informed decisions about benefits is often confined to open enrollment, rather than year-round support. While more than half (56 percent) of employers feel they offer effective tools to help employees make informed benefit choices during open enrollment, less than half (44 percent) are confident they give employees the information they need to make choices when using health care services regularly. To aid the process, 74 percent plan to enhance health care navigation tools over the next three years, helping employees access the right health care providers when needed. Employers are also prioritizing online and in-person training to educate employees (67 percent).
Holistic approach. Currently, only 28 percent of employers provide a holistic approach to enhance their employee experience. However, the survey noted that employers are beginning to implement solutions that help employees consider the broader financial context when making their benefit decisions. Today, 24 percent of employers promote thinking about what their benefit selection means for financial planning, including 401(k), health savings accounts, loan repayment and emergency savings, but nearly three-fifths (59 percent) plan to implement this approach in the next three years.
According to Willis Towers Watson, technology will also play a larger role in decision support over the next three years. Less than one-third of employers (31 percent) provide easy access to decision support through digital means like a mobile app, but 61 percent plan to enhance this capability in the next three years. Gathering data and using artificial intelligence, machine learning or virtual assistants to create a personalized experience to help employees make informed enrollment decisions will climb significantly, too—few employers (9 percent) use this approach today, but nearly one-third (32 percent) are planning to do so in the near-term.
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