Employers use education, accountability to manage health care costs

Forty-five percent of employers believe educating employees on benefits is a top priority among management, as more senior leaders are taking on advocate roles, according to the Employee Benefits Accountability and Consumerism 2011 survey by WorldatWork.

“It’s interesting to note that, although the top human resources executive is still the primary champion of employee benefits consumerism, we saw an uptick in respondents reporting that the CEO, president or another member of the senior leadership team is their primary advocate,” says Lenny Sanicola, a WorldatWork certified benefits professional. “What this tells me is that benefits and especially health care is increasingly being recognized as directly impacting bottom-line profits.”

The survey also shows that 47 percent of respondents are offering consumer-driven health plans in 2011, as opposed to 27 percent in 2006.  These plans are being implemented as way to manage costs, and more employers are even providing health savings account-based plans as their favored choice.

Health care reform does not seem to be the most significant driver for more CDHP options, the survey shows. In fact, while 31 percent of respondents say reform motivated them to offer more CDHPs, another 67 percent of respondents say their efforts remained the same. 

Regarding retirement, the amount of respondents providing financial education and advice jumped from 22 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2011.

“With the recent economic downturn, it is surprising that there are not more employers embracing this opportunity to offer financial education to their employees,” Sanicola says. “Those that do have seen increases in employee contributions to 401(k) plans as well as more active participation in making investment decisions.”

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