It’s that time of the year! No. I’m not talking about the holidays. I’m talking about open enrollment.
Tired of hearing about it yet?
Of course not, you’re a Benefits professional. And just like Santa, this is your big/busy time of the year.
To help you keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. HR Morning (HRM) had a chat with industry expert, Sally Prather, who’s the Executive Vice President and Employee Benefits Practice Leader for Alera Group, an independent, national insurance and financial services firm. She shared with us what’s going on with premiums and deductibles for the new year, and how Benefit pros can keep costs aligned while providing employees with the benefits they want and need
“I asked a couple of our chief actuaries what they were seeing in their renewal projection for their clients. And on average, [their response was] a 3% to 8% increase in premiums this year – depending on what part of the country you’re in,” said Prather. “And they’ve also seen stop loss rates, which are built into many self-insured programs, a little bit higher at 5% to 15% increases. But interestingly, we aren’t seeing a lot of changes to deductibles. Our 2021 benchmarking survey found that less than 30% of employers were looking at increasing deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses – that’s good news for employees.”
Reason: Employers and employees have been through a lot this past year. Firms have been focused on a lot of other things, like creating work from home programs and boosting mental health offerings. So, they aren’t making a lot of drastic plan design changes.
Open enrollment trends
A big trend this year is employers making the enrollment process as easy as possible for their employees. This especially rings true since many firms still have remote and hybrid workforces.
“We’re seeing a lot of employers build decision-making support tools (e.g., videos, infographics and online calculators) into the open enrollment process to make it even easier for their employees,” noted Prather. “We’re asked continuously for help with education and communication that’s simple and easy, either leading up to or during open enrollment, to make employees’ decisions as easy as possible for them.”
While the core benefits – medical, dental and life insurance – are still the focus of most firms for 2022, along with vacation and paid time off programs, Prather said they’re seeing a lot of interest in family care leave type programs, as well as student debt repayment programs.
In addition, due to high deductible plans, employers are looking at voluntary benefits, like hospital indemnity plans.
“We’ve also noticed, because of the environment we are in, telemedicine is a prominent benefit now and most likely will be here to stay, as individuals have become more comfortable with telemedicine during the pandemic,” said Prather. “And – not surprisingly – there’s been an interest in mental health benefits and things employers can do to provide access to mental health services through their medical plans, as well as employee assistance plans.”