Voluntary Benefits: Getting the Most Out of Tech

Stethoscope

In this Point of View, YouDecide CEO Peter Marcia looks at technology’s developing role in open enrollment.

Most benefits managers in the industry are exhaling a collective sigh of relief now that open enrollment is complete and the first deductions with the new benefit amounts have been applied without a hitch (we hope).

Now, ready or not, it’s time to start thinking about 2020 open enrollment. Escalating healthcare costs and increasing insurance gaps will again catapult voluntary benefits to the forefront.

Voluntary benefits help complement a total rewards plan and fill essential gaps caused by cuts in traditional benefit programs. As with core medical programs, employers can get better underwriting, pricing and plan designs than what an employee would typically find on the individual market. A major appeal of voluntary benefits is the increased sophistication of technology that can be used for payroll contributions, communications and enrollments.

'A major appeal of voluntary benefits is the increased sophistication of #HRTech that can be used for payroll contributions, communications and enrollments.' -Peter Marcia, @YouDecideCEO #HR Click To Tweet

During the 2019 open enrollment cycle, employers used technology in new ways to administer and communicate their voluntary benefits. We expect the “shift toward voluntary benefit delivery” to accelerate as carrier partners upgrade technology platforms, product portfolios, underwriting models, and communications methods to meet the needs of employers.

Payroll Deduction Administration

Many of us have who have been in the industry for a while have experienced the dreaded payroll conversation. This scenario occurs when the benefits manager wants to add a new benefit that requires a payroll deduction. The payroll team advises the benefits team that the addition of a payroll slot will need to be added to the project queue and it will take time to implement. Oh, and by the way, what budget code should the cost be applied to?

Peter Marcia
YouDecide’s Peter Marcia

Understandably, payroll managers are typically less enthusiastic about adding a slot for a benefit that only a small percentage of employees will participate in. Besides the cost of implementing another payroll slot, adding new benefits puts a strain on the payroll and accounting team in the form of reconciliations, file transfers and premium payments.

Currently, technology allows voluntary benefits outsourcers the ability to offer consolidated billing by combining multiple benefit payroll deductions into one deduction amount for employees. This allows employers to offer multiple voluntary benefits without the additional administrative headache. Voluntary benefit outsourcers, in turn, take care of the remittance and reconciliation process with the carriers.

Consolidated eligibility and single-slot payroll technology automates the complex interchange of enrollment and premium files between multiple carriers and providers. This allows the benefit manager to focus on designing benefit plans rather than worrying about being bogged down by administrative hurdles.

Communication Technology

Meet your employees where they are. Today’s worker expects to receive communications through a variety of platforms (social, email, blogs, etc.) and devices (desktops, tablets, smartphones). But depending on your employee, some methods are more preferred than others. That’s why it’s all the more important to understand the best method to reach your employees!

In terms of your messaging, how and what you communicate can determine how successful your enrollment is. Keep it clear and simple, keeping in mind that employees want to know a few items for each program:

  • Why do I need the coverage?
  • Which features fit my needs?
  • What’s the value that the program provides (i.e. for a dollar a day, I get $2 million in coverage)?
  • How much is this benefit going to cost me per paycheck?

Target your communications with these questions in mind so that employees can quickly assess if they need the coverage. Remember to activate automated enrollment reminders and regularly communicate to the individual. For example, an employee nearing retirement is more likely to be interested in a critical illness program while those with young children may be more attracted to an accident plan.

Take some time to find out what communication media capabilities your carrier partners have. Many have operationalized chat features and some level of AI to explain complex benefit programs. Once you have a better understanding of capabilities, you can then begin strategizing on how to incorporate it into your communications approach.

In order to fully measure the success of open enrollment, benefit managers need robust communication, reporting and data analytics capabilities. Modern technology can track the devices employees use to engage with the communication, how long they read that communication, what browser they’re using, etc.

A wise benefit manager can use this information to determine where employees like and expect to receive communications, how they interact with communications, etc., and use this information to help inform future enrollment communications.

The time to conduct this analysis is now. If you don’t have access to the above-mentioned technology, perhaps this is an opportunity to see what’s out there.

Enrollment Medium

Smart enrollment technology is key to success. How often do you stop purchasing a product once you run into a road block online? Voluntary benefits enrollment is much the same.

In this one-click-shopping world that we inhabit, it’s critical that we think of voluntary benefits along the same lines. We’ve come a long way since the days of paper applications and applying directly with an enroller. Now, you can enroll online for your benefits, which allows benefits managers to track employees’ progress through enrollment.

Benefits managers can also use technology to identify where employees may have abandoned the enrollment process. In addition, they can retarget these employees with a personalized message, advising them what percent of the enrollment they’ve completed, how much time they have left to enroll and provide support from customer service representatives.

Understanding the technology available to you will help ensure a smooth transition into the 2020 enrollment cycle.

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Peter Marcia is CEO of YouDecide, a voluntary benefits outsourcing, consulting and technology firm headquartered in Atlanta.

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