News with clear eyes. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Benefits companies looking for new sources of revenue have been working harder to turn employees’ confusion about benefits into a chance to sell communication services

Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP), Roseland, N.J. (Nasdaq:ADP), a payroll company, discusses employee communication services in a new report based on an online “pulse survey” of 501 human resources decision-makers at private U.S. employer with 50 or more employees.

ADP analysts found that 66% of employers with 50 to 999 workers and 36% of employers with 1,000 or more workers have no employee communications budget.

About half of the survey participants said their companies’ communication budgets has remained in the past year, and only 21% expect the communication budget to increase in the next two years, ADP says.

About 86% of the large employers and 71% of the midsize employers put benefits informations on Web portals.

Technology companies and benefits companies have been marketing automated “decision support tools” that can supplement or replace traditional worker education vehicles, such as enrollment meetings, brochures and one-on-one counseling sessions.

Despite the energy put into developing and marketing the decision support tools, 51% of the large employers included in the survey and 72% of the midsize employers offer workers no decision support tools.

BILLIONS AND BILLIONS

Over at the House Ways and Means Committee, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., has posted an analysis suggesting that hospitals are exaggerating the likely effects of H.R. 3630, a bill that could reduce Medicare hospital spending by $14 billion over 10 years.

The reduction sounds big, but Medicare is on track to spend $2.6 trillion on hospital services over the next decade, and H.R. 3630 would reduce that total by just 0.5%, Camp and other committee officials say.

Major hospital trade groups supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), and PPACA included $155 billion in Medicare hospital services spending cuts, Camp says.

CRITICAL ILLNESS POLICY UPDATED

Critical illness insurance is a hot product right now because it’s right for the times.

An insurer can write the product without worrying much about investment returns, and the product is not subject to PPACA. The product also can help fill in some of the gaps created by increases in major medical plan co-payment levels.

Trustmark Benefit Solutions, an affiliate of Trustmark Insurance Company, Lake Forest, Ill., is responding to increased market interest in the product by updating its critical illness insurance policy.

Policyholders now can get a single lump-sum payment if they are diagnosed with any of 11 critical illnesses. Policyholders also can get two payouts if they buy a double benefit rider.

Trustmark is adding a rider that will permit insureds to receive one payout for each covered condition, the company says.

The riders that implement the new feature are available to new groups in 33 states. Policies with the riders can take effect as early as January 2012.

Trustmark plans to make the riders available to existing clients and in more states in the coming year, the company says.