Benefits Execs Laser Focused on Health Cost Containment

February 7, 2003 ( - Not at all surprisingly, most benefits specialists list controlling health and welfare costs as their top 2003 priority.

The survey of members of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists and Deloitte & Touche also found that respondents’ To Do lists included:

  • figuring out how to be comply with privacy requirements in HIPAA, 50%
  • giving employees more direct access to their HR data, 38%
  • studying a stepped-up use of the Internet or an Intranet, 36%
  • providing financial planning retirement tools, 33%.

“The anguish over rising health and welfare costs is unabated, and past efforts with managed-care strategies are not providing answers to today’s problems,” researchers wrote in their study report. “Just a few years ago, it seemed we had the forest fire of health care costs at least contained if not under control. But now it appears the costs have jumped the firewalls of managed care and the health care inferno rages on.”

Policy Formation Guides

The laserlike attention to cost is likewise reflected on respondents’ description of their key objectives in designing benefit policies and objectives; 67% say they are most heavily influenced by cost management/reduction.

According to the survey, the benefits managers say they are also guided by:

  • employee attraction and retention, 12%
  • compliance and fiduciary issues, 10%
  • increased technology use, 7%
  • administrative requirements, 3%.

The survey found that benefits specialists at Northeastern companies were most likely to rely on employee self-service technology while their colleagues at Western firms are most likely to experiment with health-care delivery models.

Benefits Managers as Employees

Not forgetting that the benefits specialists are themselves employees, retirement issues dominated their personal priorities as workers:

  • evaluating current investment options, 64%
  • evaluating their current retirement savings levels, 61%
  • identifying more ways to save for retirement, 44%
  • learning more about how to control health risks, 40%
  • making better use of Internet financial programs, 36%.