Brokers Being Asked to Do More to Cut Health Benefit Costs

Employers are asking benefits brokers to engage employees on benefits choices and offer better price transparency, among other things.

Helping employees choose the right health benefit plan for their needs can result in cost savings for both employees and employers.

Findings of a DirectPath survey show benefits brokers are being relied on to help with the enrollment process, as 45% said their employer clients “highly rely” on them for help managing open enrollment. In particular, brokers said their employer clients are looking for more help with benefits communications (92% in 2020 versus 81% last year), engaging employees on benefits choices (87% vs. 80%), and selecting the right plans for employees (81% vs. 73%).

Brokers are also seeing an increased demand for personalized benefits education and enrollment and benefits communications services—97% and 96%, respectively, which are increases from last year.

“With benefits literacy at a low, it’s not surprising that benefits communications are a significant concern to employers. Benefits information needs to be conveyed using as much plain, easy to understand—which can be difficult when you consider all the technical jargon surrounding health insurance and other employee benefits language. And if benefits communications are confusing, it’s going to make it harder to engage employees on their benefits choices, since they won’t fully understand their coverage,” DirectPath says in its survey report.

But help with communications is not the only way employers are asking benefits brokers to help control costs. Eighty-three percent of brokers say clients “highly rely” on them to contain health care costs—an increase from 66% last year.

In addition, employers are demanding help from brokers in achieving better price transparency. Eighty-four percent of brokers are seeing moderate to high demand for transparency services, up from 74% last year. Sixty-two percent of brokers say they’re adding new product and service offerings to meet the increased demand for price transparency.

The survey results reflect a changing broker model. Seattle-based Dave Chase, co-founder of Health Rosetta, which promotes reforms for the U.S. health care system, says there is an ongoing move away from traditional benefits brokers to benefits consultants. He says employers should strive for a transparent broker relationship, high performance plan design and a good administrator of benefits, and he suggests questions employers should ask their benefits brokers.