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Internet Proves Useful For Employee Benefits Communications

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Insurance companies may find the Internet to be a useful tool to help reach employee benefits communications goals.

Many companies are currently offering a variety of services to their employees via the Internet to help straighten out the communication process as well as address any issues their employees may have regarding benefits.

Joanne Dietch, a principal for Towers-Perrin, who wrote a chapter in a recently published book titled “Web-Based Human Resources: The Technologies And Trends That Are Transforming HR,” said the Web is important because it permits up-to-the-minute communications and relays information both to employees and their covered family members.

She also said the Web can easily identify the user and display the information that is appropriate.

From an insurance company perspective, she added that use of the Web to inform members of their health plan benefits is increasing.

Via the Internet, “Insurance companies can present to a member information they would ordinarily have to call about,” she said.

More sophisticated (health care) Web sites, have the ability to check a claims status and print forms, which saves time, money and paper, Dietch said. They can also provide listings of doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, she said.

She added that many health care Web sites have links to health and wellness sites, which she believes “helps in the long run to make people better consumers of health care and can help modify the cost trends for these medical plans.”

Dietch said other advantages for communicating employee benefits on the Web include:

Allowing a company to construct information so that it can be easily accessed. “Its easier to find a fact on the Web than it is in a book or by calling someone,” she said.

Allowing the ability to answer questions through the use of modeling tools. “Web sites used for 401(k)s are an excellent example of how information can be turned into knowledge through interactivity,” she explained.

Personalizing information. For example, companies can research how many insurance claims a potential customer has made as well as obtain information regarding their claims, she said.

“Its like a great big filing cabinet for people with all the information about their lives that relate to benefits,” Dietch said.

She added that over the past few years she has seen an increase in the value of Web communications. “The access issues that were more apparent in past years are changing,” she said. “I see companies saying they will look for ways to connect to their employees.”

Some organizations are providing personal computers for employees to use at home, she said, while other organizations claim that people can access computers through neighbors, friends, libraries, churches and social organizations. “The reality is that getting a PC is not as difficult as it has been in the past,” she explained.

Dietch said that in the long run, employee communications through the Web may also be increasing because of savings to organizations that use the Web.

To help insurers market their products to consumers, organizations within the industry provide services specifically designed for employee benefits communications.

One such organization is Ultralink, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company which offers a self-service Web-site building tool. The program enables insurers to communicate benefits-related content to employers and employees via the Internet.

The program was designed to provide content about benefits to employees, specific to comparing benefit plans, answering frequently asked questions and providing the ability to post forms and information about getting bills paid, said David Gydo, director of marketing.

He added that the application was created for employers to offer to their employees for information about benefit plans, as well as to have access to forms such as enrollment forms.

Inform, which was launched in June, has been favorably received for use by clients both nationally and internationally, according to Gydo.

Though the program is intended for carriers, Gydo said agents and brokers could utilize the application for their clients as well.

He added that the programs cost is dependent on the client, but he stressed it was designed as a low cost, affordable alternative to a transaction content management application system.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 8, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.

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