Americans continue to change jobs at near record rates, subjecting employers to a level of turnover few have ever experienced. As a result, already stretched HR teams must juggle increased recruiting, onboarding and departure efforts and return-to-work planning. All of this leaves them with little time to focus on more routine demands such as their benefits package.
Yet benefits are among an employer’s most powerful tools to offset recruitment and retention challenges: The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 36% of employees admit they are looking to change jobs for better benefits options. It is essential that employers ensure that employees and prospects are aware of the plans and programs available to them and the role each can play in protecting the individual’s health and financial well-being.
While this sounds like a tall order for HR teams, the good news is that they don’t have to juggle these demands on their own. Brokers can help directly or by connecting employers with the right resources to identify meaningful benefits options, communicate those options to the workforce, support employees as they use their benefits, and maintain their client employer in compliance with the regulations in force.
To determine how employers can leverage brokers in their benefits programs, DirectPath surveyed health insurance brokers about the services they currently offer and which services they believe offer the greatest business value. . The results illustrate how integral brokers are and will continue to be in helping employers develop financially effective benefit programs that meet the changing needs of employees.
Find benefits that reflect changing employee lifestyles
The new employee normal demands new coverage options. The pandemic has given employees an opportunity to re-evaluate their needs and they are looking for the same flexibility in their benefits that they want in choosing where to work. That means it’s time for employers to assess their benefits package to make sure they’re providing employees with the benefits they need and want. Brokers can help employers determine which voluntary benefits to add to support changing employee lifestyles.
Notably, brokers have witnessed an almost 60% increase in the number of clients adding voluntary benefits over the past year. In the shadow of COVID-19, it makes sense that accident (78%), critical illness (73%) and hospitalization (60%) insurance were the most requested additions.
Workers are also looking for benefits beyond medical insurance. In 2021, brokers reported higher demand for pet insurance (28%) than for identity theft and legal protection (20% each), likely due to more employees adopting pets after their roles drifted apart. Recommending insurers to provide this cover is also a big part of brokers’ role, with 55% agreeing that they spend more than half their time recommending additional insurers to clients.
Of course, these benefits are of little value if employees do not know how to use them or even if they exist. Given that more than three-quarters of consumers learn health insurance terms and concepts from friends and family or are self-taught, employers should plan to educate – or re-educate – workers on how best to choose and use their advantages.
To this end, employers must also provide timely communication materials as they add and update coverage options. Brokers are filling that gap for employers: 95% of brokers report moderate to high demand for help with benefits communications. Additionally, most brokers (72%) offer a full range of communication services, including virtual walkthroughs, in-person support, and vendor referrals.
Providing clarity amid confusion and expense
The current healthcare landscape can be confusing even for those in the industry, let alone the average consumer. Employees can quickly rack up unexpected medical expenses if they don’t select the right coverage or use their plans correctly. When employees spend too much on care, employers pay too much for coverage. And, with wage increases not keeping pace with rising health care costs, it’s crucial that employers provide the right programs, tools, and support for employees’ financial well-being. Considering that the Federal Reserve reports that nearly 40% of American adults would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense, these resources are more important than ever.
Employers rely heavily on their brokers for cost containment (89% of brokers say their clients already depend on them for this). While brokers can help employers better understand where their money is going and suggest areas for savings, brokers can also help workers be financially smarter with their care selections.
DirectPath’s survey found that 86% of brokers currently provide some sort of healthcare transparency and clinical advocacy services to help customers lower their healthcare costs.
With access to advocates who can help employees purchase care, resolve claims and billing issues, and find providers, employees can be more confident they’re getting the care they need at a reasonable price.
The pandemic is pushing HR teams to their limits, leaving them with reduced bandwidth to create, maintain and promote the benefits programs employees expect from their employers.
Fortunately for brokers, this situation gives them an important opportunity to help employers create plans that attract and retain top talent and identify partners to support that talent throughout the year.
Brokers are and will continue to be an invaluable resource for employees – and employers – to navigate today’s healthcare landscape.