Optavise Annual Benefits Broker Survey shows regulatory and compliance factors driving employers’ engagement with brokers

Eighth annual survey also indicates brokers remain a critical component in managing employer healthcare costs, while revealing employers offering more voluntary benefits products

CARMEL, Ind., March 20, 2024 – Optavise, a one-stop-shop for employee benefits programs, combining voluntary benefits products and services, technology and expert guidance, today released its 2024 Annual Benefits Broker Report, "Government mandates take center stage: Unveiling the dominant market force for Benefits Brokers."

Findings from the eighth annual Optavise report show that while clients continue to request new, innovative ideas to combat rising healthcare costs, they are looking to their broker partners for help with regulatory- and compliance-related issues more than other factors.

Optavise surveyed 70 U.S.-based health insurance brokers, representing the top 15 brokerage firms, for the report. Among the key highlights:
• 69% of brokers cite ever-changing federal and state mandates as a leading market force driving their firms to add new products and service offerings.
• 44% of brokers state that compliance is one of the top three issues for which employers request their services, trailing only new and innovative ideas for cost containment (57%) and benefits communications support and strategies (46%).
• 94% of brokers report high or moderate reliance by their employer clients for compliance and reporting related to their healthcare benefits.

“We’ve seen an increase in both state and federal reporting requirements as well as regulations on the types of benefits which can be offered within a given state, which are driving a sharper focus on compliance,” said Kim Buckey, vice president, client services, Optavise. “The myriad regulations that govern employee benefits can carry significant financial and even legal ramifications for employers, whether through fines, penalties and potential litigation costs. Many of these issues can have a direct impact on employee satisfaction and engagement, and employers are increasingly looking toward brokers for support.”

Brokers remain a key player in healthcare cost management
As employers continue to ask their broker partners to help manage their healthcare costs, they are particularly interested in prescription drug management programs (77%) as a cost-control measure.

“In an effort to control costs, we are seeing more employers implementing programs that include mandatory generic prescriptions, mandatory mail order, step programs and partnering with various healthcare entities,” said Buckey.

Other popular cost control measures include shifting to (or from) self-insured coverage (68%), implementing point solutions to target specific health needs (60%) and adding clinical advocacy to help employees become better healthcare consumers (55%).

Another increase in voluntary benefits products
The number of employers adding voluntary benefits products to their portfolios continues to grow (73%, up from 64% from 2023). Nearly half (49%) of broker survey participants note that voluntary benefits provide “a lot of value to their business,” with another 45% reporting they provide at least some value. The three most popular voluntary products continue to be accident (65%, down from 71%), critical Illness (63%, down from 68%) and hospital indemnity (49%, up from 39%). Other voluntary products gaining traction include pet insurance (23%, up from 19%) and ID theft protection insurance (22%, up from 13%) and legal services (15%, up from 11%).

Additionally, reflecting an aging population, potential state coverage requirements and an increased awareness of its need, brokers also reported employer interest in long-term-care insurance, with 17% of brokers ranking it among the top supplemental products their clients have added in the past year.

Continued high demand for benefits communications support
An increasing number of brokers report seeing high demand for benefits communications support from their current and prospective clients (57%, up from 49% in 2023), while 37% reported moderate demand. Additionally, nearly every broker surveyed provides these services, either directly or in partnership with benefits communications specialists: 96% offer materials such as enrollment guides and brochures, 94% provide compliance communications, 91% provide virtual communications support and 90% provide in-person support.

“Clear, open and consistent communication about benefits is increasingly important,” said Buckey. “The more information employees have about the types of options available and how to use them, the more confident they will feel about making the right decisions on their benefits.”

Optavise surveyed 70 U.S.-based health insurance brokers, representing the top 15 largest insurance brokerage firms on three principal areas: their current service offerings, which services deliver the most business value, and how their models are likely to evolve to help them compete in the coming year. Most brokers surveyed (81%) service the mid-market space (100-1,000 employees). Seventy-eight percent service the enterprise market in some capacity, with 9% of those brokers having more than 50 clients with over 1,000 employees.

About Optavise
Optavise provides personalized employee benefits solutions to help employers and their employees optimize their benefits and make better health and financial decisions. Optavise offers a unique combination of innovative technology, flexible voluntary benefits, and experts who educate and communicate with employees about their benefits. A part of the CNO Financial Group (NYSE: CNO) family of brands, Optavise operates through direct sales to employers and a nationwide network of more than 10,000 broker partners and over 600 dedicated agents who serve nearly 20,000 employers. For more information, visit Optavise.com.