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Survey Finds Internet Valuable For Benefits Communications

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A survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, conducted in September 2000, found that the use of the Web for employee benefits communication is increasing.

Brookfield, Wis.-based IFEBP surveyed 1,622 corporate, 1,423 multi-employer and 683 public members about their use of Internet technology for employee benefits communication. The survey showed a jump in users to 42 percent from 29 percent in 1998, said Cynthia Drinkwater, senior director of research for IFEBP.

“We asked those people who did not provide employee benefits information through a Web site if they were going to do so in the next 12 months,” Drinkwater said, adding that 30 percent of their members said they planned to.

She said that currently 31 percent of their members are using the Internet, and projected that “about 61 percent of all of our members will be using the Internet for employee benefit communications by the end of this year.”

According to the survey, the two most commonly reported benefits of having information on Internet sites were immediateness and accuracy of information, by 29 percent; and availability of information 24 hours a day, by 25 percent.

Other major benefits included the speed of information transfer and feedback, at 17 percent; lower costs, at 10 percent; and more effective communications at seven percent.

Two-thirds, or 256 members surveyed, believed use of the Internet is either somewhat more effective, by 46 percent; or much more effective, by 20 percent, than traditional communication methods.

Corporate plan sponsors with Internet sites who were surveyed, said the most posted general information included informal plan descriptions, at 77 percent; provider-vendor directories, at 70 percent; and frequently asked questions, at 54 percent.

Other common features included publications and newsletters, at 48 percent; plan option comparisons, at 45 percent; and mutual fund performance information, at 39 percent.

The survey also found that the top four most frequent features on Internet sites were provider directories or locators, forms, benefit summaries and links to providers, vendors and other information.

One-quarter of the members surveyed, about 420, said they did not have Internet sites available because of the time it takes to implement sites.

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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