Long gone are the days when we could watch the economy in other continents suffer while we sat immune.
Leading benefits experts outlined the challenges and choices employees are facing when it comes to making benefits decisions during the annual benefits enrollment season at a briefing in New York recently.
According to a release, experts from Prudential Group Insurance, the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the American Benefits Council shared research and perspective on an increasing shift of benefits costs and decision making to employees who have to decide between benefits that impact health or wealth.
"The rising cost of health care is leading companies to shift more cost to employees, as well as to offer employees a robust menu of voluntary benefits to address key financial risks," said Stephen Pelletier, president of Prudential Group Insurance, who spoke at the event. "When it comes to making these decisions companies are providing more information and decision tools than ever to help employees make choices that meet both their shorter-term health and longer-term wealth protection needs."
Benefits experts at the event, including Dallas Salisbury, president of the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI); James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council; and James Gemus, senior vice president of Group Life and Voluntary Benefits, Prudential Group Insurance, highlighted the need for consumers to take a balanced approach to choosing benefits to ensure they and their families are protected from the risk of premature death, disability and prolonged illness, all of which can have a devastating effect on a family's financial health.
"Employee benefits are highly valued and provide flexibility to meet the needs of workers," said EBRI's Salisbury. "While health care is the priority for most workers the importance of education and increased understanding of the role and importance of the range of benefits offered cannot be understated."
Reflecting the shift in benefits decisions to individuals, the panelists noted that voluntary benefits and products are becoming increasingly important to employees, a point highlighted in two Prudential white papers, "Optimizing Employee Benefits in the Post- Health Care Reform Environment," and "Voluntary Benefits: A Critical Tool for Improving Employees' Financial Wellness," shared at the event.
"Health care reform has the potential to apply added pressure to leading employers as they manage finite budgets for benefits cost and compete for top talent," noted James Klein of the American Benefits Council. "Employers are working hard to maintain the benefits which they believe are critical to attracting and retaining the best talent and to help employees make the best choices that protect them and their families."
Drawing upon the findings from the "Optimizing Employee Benefits" white paper, Prudential's Gemus noted the accelerated pace of change in the benefits space including the adoption of wellness programs, and the shift in cost and decision making to employees.
"Given the importance of these decisions and the risk that health care crowds out other important benefits choices, we have developed a new benefits needs estimator that is helping employees better understand the coverage they will need," said Gemus. "We also believe that it is important for more companies to move to year round benefits selection and separate health care from other benefits choices to ensure that employees have the time to make the most informed choices that will ultimately support their overall financial wellness."
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