|By Burd, Joshua|
SPOTLIGHT: EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
If you have employer-sponsored benefits, then you know this process all too well:
There's the annual notice about open enrollment, the group meeting with human resources and the thick packet that explains your options. You'll make your selection, return the forms and maybe not give it a second thought until doing it all over again next year.
It's an area that
"It's a tough topic," said McCauley, the executive vice president of sales and marketing for Univers Workplace Solutions, a
Tough or dry as it may be, experts say employees are searching for answers more than ever before, as they grapple with higher out-of-pocket costs and a sudden abundance of options under the Affordable Care Act. So when it comes to benefits, employer-toemployee communication and education are all the more important.
"Employees are asking, 'What does health care reform mean to me?"' McCauley said, so for a company that plans to continue offering health care, it's critical to "give an employee enough education without overburdening them with details."
McCauley said that since
Those employees may have been warned months earlier during open enrollmentand there's been no shortage of news about health care reform - but McCauley said many didn't quite grasp the impact until that first visit of the year.
"So employees are raising their hands at a really elevated level," she said. "And it's ... creating a bit of a panic with HR because it can't answer all of the questions."
It's a far cry from past years, she said. Employees are accustomed to getting an envelope with their benefits information once ayear, and "maybe if you're lucky, there will be one meeting that... you'll all go to and somebody will go through all the benefits."
But employees only care about a portion of the content, McCauley said, and the ACA has made the options increasingly complex. So it's now better for employers to "(make) tools and resources available" weeks or months before an employee has to make a decision.
But it's also hard for "employers to do all the things that they need to and also continuously meet with employees."
So HUB offers its clients the option to hold meetings throughout the year, with sessions that focus on alternatives to traditional plans, along with classes and forums to ask questions well before the open enrollment period, Torella said. For employers, it's a balance between spending more on consultants and "(wanting) your employees to make better, smarter, more informed decisions."
"We really try to help people make very, very good decisions," said Torella, HUB's Northeast president and head of its employee benefits national practice. "It doesn't always happen, everybody is not always happy, but we find that the bulk of employees feel really good when you go through that process because you've introduced it so often."