Active Engagement Helps Employers Meet Health Benefits Goals

Individual education to employees is a better way for health benefits enrollment.

A survey by DirectPath finds that 71% of employers opt for passive enrollment in their health plans.

Lori Dustin, chief marketing officer at DirectPath, who is based in Boston, explains that with passive enrollment, employers provide open enrollment materials to their employee population, may host a webinar or presentation of benefits and options, then direct employees to a website for self-service enrollment. “It’s passive because there is no real individual education,” she tells PLANSPONSOR.

Dustin cites an AFLAC survey that found 90% of employees tend to keep the same plan they had in the previous year. The AFLAC survey found employees spend less than one hour researching benefits information.

DirectPath believes active engagement is a better way for health benefits enrollment. Dustin says active engagement can help employers reach their objectives, for example, steering more employees into consumer-driven health care plans (CDHPs) or increasing participation in wellness programs.

Active engagement includes confidential education sessions with employees, either in person or over the phone. “It is important for employers to commit to individual education,” Dustin says. The educator will get to understand an employee’s circumstances and educate the employee about what is the best plan for him or her. Educators can also sit with employees while they complete enrollment online.

When DirectPath helps employers with active engagement, it sees CDHP enrollment up to 69% of employees, according to Dustin. She notes that one study found CDHP enrollment overall to be just 11%.

She suggests active engagement could be even more effective for retiree health benefits—the difference in options is even more important for retired employees. It can help employers with goals of migrating retired employees to a new plan or to a private exchange.

As for the benefits of active engagement for employers, as an example, Dustin says with more employees enrolled in CDHPs, costs for employers are reduced because premiums are less. It could also reduce costs for employees because CDHPs are often complemented with savings or reimbursement accounts.  DirectPath finds employers save about $1.5 million dollars. Dustin notes that the average employer size of DirectPath’s active engagement clients is 5,000 to 7,000 employees.

In addition to individual education sessions, “it’s really important that communication from the employer is not just during open enrollment,” Dustin says. “There has to be repeated communication to support the employer’s strategy—communicate throughout year. And for wellness programs, incentives are often effective.

DirectPath, based in Birmingham, Alabama, helps Fortune 1000 employers with strategic employee engagement and health care compliance.