Taking a Fresh Look at Health Benefits Will Be Important Throughout the Pandemic

Specific benefit offerings and increased communications are needed to help employees and to keep costs down.

A review of the most recent open enrollment period found more employees purchased hospital indemnity and voluntary life insurance offerings, according to Benefitfocus, a benefits technology platform. The firm says the increased selection of these benefits is believed to be driven by the health impacts of COVID-19.

“With COVID-19 affecting millions of Americans, employers sought additional benefits to help employees confront the impact of a pandemic that often led to hospitalization,” the firm notes.

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The review also found more employers used multi-channel communications to reach employees, reflecting the rise in remote working and an increased acceptance of digital forms of communications.

Communications to employees are an important need highlighted in the 2021 DirectPath broker report—both communications to help employees understand their benefits and to help them reduce costs. Nearly all (95%) brokers indicated they are experiencing demand for benefits communications services, with 70% of brokers reporting that their clients are relying on them more than usual for benefits communications materials. Key to this trend has been increased demand in communications that get employees to take action—whether that means actively enrolling in their benefits or reading about a new regulation that will impact their coverage—versus simply providing educational content.

In a recent Voya survey, two-thirds of employees said they want their employer to help them understand their employee benefits throughout the year, not just at open enrollment.

DirectPath notes that as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of daily life across the globe, more than four in 10 Americans reported delaying or avoiding medical care because of concerns related to the coronavirus. “Now, as the world begins to reopen, it is more important than ever that employees are shopping for care to ensure they are receiving the best possible price for the necessary services—especially given that the savings can be in the thousands,” it says.

The DirectPath survey shows that 83% of brokers currently provide some sort of health care transparency and clinical advocacy services to help employers contain costs, and 23% of respondents reported they will be adding new advocacy and transparency-focused product and service offerings to meet this growing demand.

Two-thirds (67%) of respondents to a recent survey on health care literacy reported that they did not realize they could compare treatment or service costs before receiving care, according to DirectPath. “It is critical that brokers are bolstering these advocacy and transparency services by providing holistic benefits communications services,” it says.