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hewitt finds employees stick with same ol’ same ol’ benefits

April 21, 2010

in health communication

hewitt, a global human resources consulting firm, recently released findings that more employees than ever are actively enrolling in their benefits. the challenge is, while more employees are making active election decisions during open enrollment, most are sticking with the same ol’ same ol’.

two things about this analysis jumped out at me:

  • it doesn’t reveal how many companies are requiring their employees to elect benefits each year instead of letting them default (stick with) their current plan. all of my clients require that employees elect their benefits annually, and that makes sense in a world where benefits change each year—from price to plan design—and we want people to be more engaged in their health. the rational mind knows it should actively choose benefits, but the 45-page enrollment book from hell, inertia, and fear of making a bad decision usually lead employees to default. if more employees are actively enrolling because they have no choice, it’s terrific news but doesn’t really reflect greater consumer behavior by employees.
  • the second item that jumps out is the suggested approach for altering employees’ enrollment actions: getting more aggressive with pricing to make certain plans attractive or reducing plan options to eliminate the alternatives. you can seduce and squeeze employees into plans and produce positive short-term effect. ultimately, without more than these strategic devices, companies run the risk of creating dismayed, uninformed employees who don’t get how the low-cost plan they chose really works and aren’t using their benefits as intended.

that’s where what wasn’t discussed also jumped out at me: there was very little on the impact communication can have on better “choosing and using.” i happen to know that hewitt emphasizes communication, since i used to work in their communication practice. i wish that were better emphasized in this analysis. at the end of the day, it’s communication that establishes the comfort and understanding necessary for making smart decisions—particularly when that communication extends beyond annual enrollment.

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