Mid-Year Benefits Market Review

The underlying forces don't sleep. Or take three-day weekends...

(Photo: Shutterstock) (Photo: Shutterstock)

With July 1 quickly approaching, it’s important for brokers to reflect on the past six months, but it’s also necessary to stay ahead of the curve by identifying aspects of the benefits landscape that will continue to shape the industry and dictate how health care is consumed.

(Related: Helping Employees Start the Year Off on the Right Foot)

Here are three trends advisers can keep top of mind as they prepare their benefits plans in the second half of 2017, and in 2018.

1. Increased Popularity of HDHPs

The popularity of high-deductible health plans continues to increase.

Employers encourage use of the plans because they help control costs by shifting more responsibility to their employees. Employees find the lower premiums attractive, but they might not stop to consider their out-of-pocket risk is greater due to higher deductibles.

As more of your clients choose these plans, it’s important to encourage them to continue benefits education efforts. This is especially true for millennial employees, because this group of workers is more likely to share their negative experiences with HDHPs and their uncertainty of how these plans work on social media. Knowing this, advisers have the unique opportunity to educate clients and their employees on the pros and cons of HDHPs and how to best tailor options to suit individual needs.

When your clients are well-informed, they can better prepare workers, who will be more likely to appreciate their benefits as the year progresses.

2. Increased Emphasis on Communication Programs

Although benefits education throughout the enrollment period is highly important, employers are also recognizing the need for year-round employee communication.

Extended communication will increase employee understanding of their benefits and can positively impact participation. This helps to maximize employee health and well-being, which can lead to higher productivity at work. Advisers can work with clients to distribute supplemental materials to remind employees about specific perks available in their current plan, such as telemedicine, and tips on how to best use the benefits all year long.

3. Outsourcing Administration

Technological changes and legal intricacies surrounding health care reform make it more challenging for businesses to handle their benefits administration in-house.

The 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report showed that, although 93% of employers believe they understand health care reform legislation, more than half (52%) of them reported that they were only somewhat well-prepared, or not very well-prepared, to comply with the reporting requirements. Most of the requirements that were in effect last year are still in effect this year.

Not surprisingly, 68% of employers were interested in outsourcing at least one benefits administration service to a third party.

Demand for help with reporting requirements is an opportunity for advisors to provide additional assistance and take the pressure off of clients, further highlighting your value and expertise.

Looking Ahead

While some short-lived benefits trends may not continue into the second half of the year, these health care trends have been around long enough to prove their staying power.

Advisers who embrace these changes and take a proactive approach to incorporating them into their benefits strategies will be better equipped to meet customer expectations and set the standard for success in the rest of the year, and in years to come.

 --- Read One Simple Trick for Writing Great Marketing Emails on ThinkAdvisor.

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