We asked some industry experts what they thought worked and didn't this year in the employee benefits industry. Here's what they had to say.
From the production of 1094s and 1095s and the continued movement by employers to streamline their business processes to the introduction of tools and resources to support employees, technology is an increasingly important topic in the industry.
The industry saw a tremendous number of new entrants as well as business model changes from established players as they fight for market share.
For the advisor, it is important to stay current on the companies in the technology space and their strengths and weaknesses.
Further, it is important to have a process to work through with clients, specifically, to understand what business objective they are trying to solve, what people are involved, and what processes are involved so that a clear set of specifications are developed to match the best technology to the need.
Perry Braun, executive director of the Benefit Advisors Network (BAN)
By far the best industry trend in 2016 is the growing acceptance that conflict-of-interest fees represent a real problem when providing investment advice. With the trend toward eliminating conflict-of-interest fees for investment advice given a kick-start by the DOL's new “conflict-of-interest” (aka “fiduciary”) rule, we can see a time when this confusion finally unravels.
The worst industry trend in 2016 has to be the advent of state-sponsored private employee retirement plans. It just can't get any worse, can it? Oh, wait, it can.
The DOL wants to make states exempt from ERISA oversight. So now private employees can have the worst of both worlds. Not only do they get plans that are poorly run, offer inadequate savings, and severely limit investment options, but they also lose all the protections they currently receive in private company sponsored plans and their own IRAs.
Chris Carosa, author, chief contributing editor for FiduciaryNews.com
Among the worst aspects of health-related news this year is the CDC's recognition of the growing opioid epidemic and its direction to doctors to curtail prescriptions.
In discussions with workers’ compensation executives, there is growing evidence that individuals are filling jobs, then feigning work-related injury so as to access opioid painkillers. With the volume of noise increasing about the epidemic, so too is increased awareness of alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture and PEMF therapies that can help mitigate pain for employees, even when they are at work. This is one of the biggest “pros” to come out of this year.
Greg Houlgate, CEO of Oska Wellness
As an industry, we continue to roll out technological advancements and build relationships with customers through e-apps, e-delivery, and assisted underwriting rules engines. This all places a greater focus on service and value to our customers.
Another pro is the macro industry trend of delivering a powerful customer experience, prompting carriers to reconsider their business models. Carriers need to adapt quickly to develop a seamless purchase experience online — learning, quoting, applying and even having a policy delivered, all online.
As for the worst: The impact on the industry of economic instability and low interest rates.
Andrew Gordon, VP, head of life product & pricing, individual markets and Lawrence Hazzard, VP, product strategy, disability income, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America