Workers Leave ‘Money on the Table’ During Open Enrollment

Economic realities have employees citing dental, vision and 401(k)s as ‘dream benefits’

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Oct 18, 2012

Just over half (56 percent) of employees eligible to participate in the annual benefits open enrollment period last year felt “very confident” they’ll make the right decisions for themselves and their families this year, according to MetLife’s Benefits Election Poll. In contrast, nearly two-thirds of those who actively reviewed information last enrollment season felt “very confident” about making the right decisions this year.

The poll, sponsored by group insurance provider MetLife, was conducted Sept. 28-30, 2012, among U.S. full- and part-time workers age 18 and older.

A Time for Action

Encourage employees to take full advantage of the benefits being offered and discounts available through group pricing, advised Todd Katz, MetLife executive vice president, in a media statement. For instance, drive home the message that, “This is a once-a-year opportunity for employees to maximize their total compensation package by selecting benefits options that meet their specific needs,” he noted.

The poll found that approximately one in five workers who had the opportunity to participate in open enrollment last year failed to act and defaulted to the prior year’s choices or their employer’s default choices, potentially forfeiting savings by leaving “money on the table.” Men (24 percent) were twice as likely as women (12 percent) to fail to act.

Moreover, the poll revealed the following:

Unaware workers stick with the status quo. The more actively employees review their benefits materials, the more likely they are to make changes; for instance, just 43 percent of those who actively reviewed materials deliberately kept the same options vs. 58 percent who reviewed them only briefly.

Advice:Remind employees that benefit offerings often change from year to year and new options may be added, so it’s important that they read enrollment materials and confirm whether their current selections remain the most appropriate.

Saving is an eye opener.Sixty-eight percent of workers reported that they would spend more time reviewing enrollment materials if they knew they could save money buying group products vs. individual coverage.

Advice:Remind employees of the savings potential from workplace benefits and that it pays to be a savvy shopper at the office, as well as at home.

“There are obvious out-of-pocket cost savings by using group plans with in-network dental, medical and vision providers,” said Katz, and some employers also offer opportunities to save on auto insurance, homeowners insurance and even attorney fees. For example, MetLife found that those who elected auto insurance through work, when available, saved on average 28 percent.

Employee's “Dream Benefits” Are Down-to-Earth

Given the tepid economic recovery and challenging job market, employees indicated that their “dream” benefits were those that once were considered standard offerings, according to MetLife's poll. For instance, after free or affordable medical coverage, employees most frequently name dental, vision and 401(k) retirement benefits as their dream benefits. These benefits were cited ahead of more vacation time and gym memberships.

Other dream benefits included life insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance and disability insurance, as well as flex time, telecommuting and college tuition assistance.

Employees indicated that they valued having access to more benefits options regardless of who pays for them. Nearly two-thirds wanted a wider array of voluntary benefits to choose from, even if they had to pay for the benefits themselves.​

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