The broker’s role in creating excellent benefits programs for employers

During late spring and early summer, the typical HR manager’s thoughts turn to evaluating benefits programs and choosing new offerings for the next year’s plan. As HR teams have had to focus more on attracting and retaining talent, offboarding employees who have found new jobs, and facilitating a smooth return to work (where possible), there is little time left to manage operations–including their benefits program.

In the face of the Great Resignation, benefits packages can be the key differentiator in recruiting and retaining talent. A Pew Research Center survey revealed that 23% of employees who left their jobs in 2021 cited poor benefits as a reason for looking for new opportunities. Of those who did find a new job, 42% said their new job provided better benefits. As such, HR teams should ensure they are properly communicating their benefits programs to prospective and current employees. By understanding what plans and programs are available, employees can enhance their health and financial well-being.

To manage benefits-related items, HR teams often turn to health insurance brokers to help with several benefits-related activities. DirectPath, which recently announced that it is rebranding to become Optavise, conducted a survey of health insurance brokers. According to the survey, brokers act as strategic advisors to their clients, enabling employers to provide cost-effective benefits programs that meet employees’ ever-changing needs. Here are a few ways brokers are assisting their clients:

  • Offering benefits communication (95%)
  • Providing employees with support while they use their benefits (86%)
  • Managing regulatory compliance efforts (73%)
  • Identifying voluntary benefits options (60%)

How brokers can help employees—and employers—manage high health care costs

Healthcare literacy is becoming increasingly important for three key reasons: more employees are changing employers (and must learn a whole new benefits package), employers are adding new programs and plan options to support employee physical, mental and financial health; and, health care costs have continued to rise and are still expected to increase this year. If employees do not have the proper knowledge or resources to best choose and use their health plans, they may unknowingly spend more on out-of-pocket costs, which are ultimately passed on to employers.

So, how can brokers assist employees and employers?

To start, employers should take stock of what their employees do, or more importantly, do not understand about health care coverage. In the survey, more than 75% of consumers learn about health care terms and concepts from friends and family or are self-taught, rather than learning about coverage options from benefits experts. As the benefits landscape becomes more complex, employees are struggling with how to make the best choices for their current circumstances.

To help increase health care literacy levels, HR teams are turning to brokers to provide communication materials that can be used year-round to educate participants. In the same survey, 95% of brokers saw moderate to high demand for assistance with benefits communications, with 72% offering a full range of communications services, such as virtual benefits fairs, in-person support, and interactive benefits guides.

Further, 89% of brokers report that their clients depend on them for cost containment services, including helping employers understand how they are spending money on healthcare and where there are opportunities to save. However, brokers can also serve employees directly by helping them make smarter, more cost-effective healthcare decisions. Eighty-six percent of brokers reported that they currently provide some form of healthcare transparency and clinical advocacy services to give employees access to experts who can support them as they shop for healthcare treatments, procedures, and services, find providers, and settle billing disputes. These services empower employees to take control of their healthcare, while keeping costs down for employers.

Matching benefits packages to employees’ lifestyles

Over the past two years, employee needs have changed dramatically due to remote and hybrid work schedules. Some employees may have moved to different cities or states, realized that they needed different child or eldercare services, or noticed that there were gaps in their healthcare coverage or financial protections that needed to be addressed. Increasingly, employees expect the same flexibility in how they choose and use their benefits as they have in choosing where to work. To meet these expectations, HR teams can work with brokers to reevaluate both their benefits packages offering and voluntary and supplemental benefits as employees look to enhance their financial and overall well-being.

In DirectPath’s report, brokers reported that there has been an almost 60% increase in employers adding voluntary benefits to their offerings in the past year. Following COVID, it is no surprise that accident (78%), critical illness (73%), and hospital indemnity (60%) were the most popular voluntary benefits requested. And as more employees adopted furry companions once they were able to work remotely, brokers saw more demand for pet insurance (28%) than ID theft and legal protection (20% each) in 2021. To help employers be successful in meeting employees’ changing needs, 55% of brokers reported that they now spend more than half their time suggesting supplemental carriers who provide these benefits to their clients, showcasing brokers’ role as strategic partners for their clients.

As benefits packages have become an enticement in attracting and retaining top talent in a tight labor market, HR teams can feel more confident in knowing that they can rely on brokers to provide the right support, manage healthcare costs, and help update benefits packages that keep current employees happy while attracting new ones.

Read the article here.

Kim Buckey is the Vice President of Client Services at Optavise (formerly DirectPath)