Many Workers Passive During Benefits Enrollment

October 15, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Only 56% of employees eligible to participate in the annual benefits enrollment period are confident about their decisionmaking, and many keep the same choices, according to a poll.

MetLife’s Benefits Election Poll found that by keeping the same choices each year or failing to actively enroll, many workers potentially leave “money on the table.” Approximately one in five workers who had the opportunity to participate in a benefits enrollment last year failed to act and defaulted to either the prior year’s choices or their employer’s default choices. Men (24%) were twice as likely as women (12%) to fail to act.

The poll also found:

Workers keep to the status quo. More than half (51%) of respondents reported they deliberately kept their choices the same, believing their personal needs were unchanged. Forty-three percent of those who actively reviewed materials deliberately kept the same options compared with 58% who only briefly reviewed them. The research shows that because employers often change or add offerings, reading enrollment materials helps confirm whether the current selections remain the most appropriate.

Savings potential is an eye opener. Many workers are unaware of the savings potential from workplace benefits, even if paid for by the employee. Sixty-eight percent of workers reported they would spend more time reviewing enrollment materials if they could save money by buying group insurance products.

Knowledge boosts confidence. Reading benefits materials appears to boost confidence in decisionmaking. Nearly two-thirds of people who actively reviewed information last enrollment season feel very confident about making the right decisions this year. However, only half of those who did not do so feel confident.

“We encourage employees to … take full advantage of the benefits employers are offering and the discounts available through group pricing,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president at MetLife. “This is a once-a-year opportunity for employees to maximize their total compensation package by selecting benefits options that meet their specific needs.”

After free or affordable medical coverage, one of the most frequently named "dream benefits" is a 401(k) retirement plan. Nearly two-thirds of workers want a wider array of voluntary benefits to choose from, even if they would have to pay for it themselves.

The MetLife Benefits Election Poll was conducted online from September 28 to September 30, 2012 and was fielded by GfK Roper Customer Research North America. The nationally representative survey polled 523 full- and part-time workers ages 18 and older.

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