Survey: Workers Recognize Shift in Benefits Responsibility

September 25, 2006 ( - A recent survey by MetLife revealed that 43% of employees said their company's open enrollment period makes them feel responsible for their benefits decisions.

MetLife’s 2006 Study of Open Enrollment Benefits Trends, which polled about 1,200 workers, also found that workers think they are striking a better deal by getting benefits through their employer, rather than going it alone, with 65% saying that is the case. More than half (54%) of employees choose benefits with prices in the middle of the continuum – not the highest and not the lowest.

“In this age of ‘consumerism,’ open enrollment is often the one time of year when employees have the chance to act like true consumers by evaluating their benefits coverage and ensuring that they don’t have gaps or costly overlaps in coverage,” said Ronald Leopold, vice president, Institutional Business, MetLife, in a release on the survey. “Open enrollment is a window of opportunity to enroll in group benefits that are typically less costly and more convenient than if they were purchased on the employee’s own,” he added.

Polled workers said they needed the most help on benefits decisions in the areas of retirement savings (28%) and health care (28%). Nearly three-quarters (71%) of employees would also like their company to alert them about additional insurance protection they should consider whenever they have a significant “life event.”

Seven in 10 surveyed employees said they spend an hour or less reviewing their current benefits and selecting new coverage options, according to the release.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of younger employees – and 54% of employees overall – said they would definitely or probably sign up for financial planning if it was offered through the workplace as a voluntary benefit for which the employee pays all or most of the cost.

Forty-six percent of employees under the age of 35 are interested in hearing about benefits they have not had before, compared to 34% of respondents age 55 and older.

Leopold offers the following suggestions in the release to help employees make benefits decisions during open enrollment:

  • Consider the impact on benefits in the case of a major life event, such as marriage or divorce, etc.
  • Make sure the health plan covers major preventive and diagnostic procedures, and also consider any benefits a spouse may have to avoid paying for double coverage.
  • Consider financial factors, including day-to-day expenses and larger obligations – e.g., mortgage or rent, and childcare – and services possibly needed for an aging parent, such as cooking or cleaning.
  • Disability coverage should amount to at least 60% of income.
  • Make maximum deferrals to take advantage of 401(k) plan match contributions.
  • Consider flexible spending accounts, which can allow employees to set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for out-of-pocket medical and prescription costs.