Counter Open Enrollment ‘Benefits Fatigue’

Framing benefits selection using a portfolio approach

By Stephen Miller, CEBS October 31, 2014

When confronting the open enrollment process, more than half of respondents to a recent Harris Poll said they would prefer to be doing any other unpleasant activity—including going to the dentist.

The survey of 2,060 adults was commissioned by PlanSource, a provider of benefits administration services. The findings reveal that:

More than two-thirds (67 percent) of employees take time out of their workday for researching, choosing and enrolling in their employer’s benefits plans during open enrollment.

More than half (55 percent) report that sorting through all of the options is confusing.

Nearly one-third (32 percent) say it requires too much research.

More than a quarter (29 percent) say getting confirmation of selections/coverage takes too long.

Top considerations weighing on employees’ minds during open enrollment were:

Saving money by choosing an affordable health plan (44 percent of respondents).

Preparing for an unforeseen medical emergency or disability (37 percent).

Ensuring their family’s financial well-being in the event of their or their partner’s death (25 percent).

A Benefits ‘Portfolio’

“The frustration of completing open enrollment can cause ‘benefits fatigue,’ which results from the serial process of selecting one benefit, choosing the next one, then the next, and so on,” Steve Adams, president and CEO of Navera, a benefits enrollment provider, told SHRM Online. “Besides being boring, the serial process of open enrollment doesn’t enable employees and their families to see how the benefits they select work together. Employees are asked to make an independent purchase decision about each of their benefits without ever seeing if this will provide them with the most complete and cost-effective coverage.”

For employees to come away from the benefits enrollment process satisfied with their decisions, “they need to have the information necessary to understand what each benefit is, what it covers, why people typically select it, and whether or not it’s right for them,” Adams said. He advises framing the benefits selection process using a holistic “portfolio approach” similar to the way workers allocate their retirement savings among equities, fixed income and other investments in a 401(k) plan, using available funds to create an appropriate balance among “assets.”

Such an approach highlights how medical and voluntary products together are more than the sum of their parts, providing complete coverage based on employees’ assessments of their financial, health and wellness goals, Adams noted.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

Related SHRM Articles:

Consumer-Driven Options for Open Enrollment Success, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2014

Cost Is Top Factor in Selecting Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2014

Navigate Generational Attitudes on Health Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2014

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