It’s that time of year when employees sit in conference rooms, listening to presentations on enrolling in voluntary benefits for the coming year.
Employees have questions. What should I sign up for? How much will it cost? Do I even need this product?
Maybe having a conversation would help.
As the variety of workplace benefits has increased, so has employees’ willingness to spend money on them, Meredith Ryan-Reid, MetLife senior vice president and head of distribution development and benefits delivery, told InsuranceNewsNet.
“People are spending more on benefits than they ever have,” she said. “Employers have had to shift more health care costs on to employees. And a lot of that has been driven by the Affordable Care Act and some of the limitations on how much employers can fund their plans, limitations on how rich their plans can be. So there has been a shift for regulatory reasons as well as cost containment, and more of the cost burden is being transferred to employees.”
But although workers have many benefit options available to them, they also are confused about choosing the benefits that are right for their own situations. “Our challenge is to help people cut through the noise and make the right choice,” Ryan-Reid said.
'Much Time And Money'
Eighty percent of people don’t talk about insurance or finances with anyone, MetLife researchers found. So the carrier has launched a campaign encouraging workers to “have meaningful conversations” with people they trust as they make their benefit decisions.
MetLife provides voluntary benefits that cover more than 47 million employees and their families, and has a 15.4 percent share of the total voluntary benefits market in the U.S.
“We invest so much time and money trying to communicate benefits every single year. And we recognize that we’re still not breaking through,” Ryan-Reid said. “So we did a little bit of specific research at the end of last year. And one of the major takeaways is that people don’t think about insurance only when a life event happens.
"And that’s sort of been the conventional wisdom. We think people have real benefit and those real ‘aha’ moments when they speak with someone they trust and they just have a conversation.”
MetLife created a website featuring videos of “real people” talking about a wide range of employee benefits from critical illness coverage to legal insurance.
“Our real big theme this year is encouraging people to have conversations with those they know and trust, whether it’s a family member, a friend, a trusted coworker. Because we know that has the good potential to help people think about the important stuff in a real way. And in a more personal way,” Ryan-Reid said.
Array Of Benefits
Workers have an array of voluntary benefits to choose from.
“We’re actually talking about a broader range of benefits – everything from group life to disability to some of the supplemental health products like critical illness or accident insurance,” Ryan-Reid said.
“Those have become increasingly important and more popular because of the high-deductible health plans in the workplace today. People don’t realize the out-of-pocket expense they might incur, so having some of those types of products are increasingly important.”
Ryan-Reid predicted that more employers will offer supplemental health benefits as part of their voluntary benefit offerings.
“As more players offer high-deductible health plans, more companies are offering supplemental health benefits to help employees offset those costs,” she said.
Another trend is an increase in benefits such as tuition reimbursement and benefits relating to employee financial wellness.
“Any help that can be provided around financial wellness is really important,” Ryan-Reid said. “Employees are struggling with their own financial health. This creates a distraction at work and results in lost productivity. People have a lot of financial stress.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.