COVID-19 has changed the world, and that includes the world of employee benefits. Worries about short- and long-term financial challenges have prompted some employers to re-examine their benefits program.
LIMRA research shows 26% of employers are considering changes to their insurance offerings as a result of the pandemic. According to the study conducted in June 2020, 20% have dropped or are considering dropping at least one insurance benefit as a cost-savings measure. In addition, while most employers are not currently considering making any changes to benefit cost-sharing as a result of COVID-19, nearly 1 in 5 employers might require employees to pay a greater share of the cost for some benefits.
Yet 40% of employers say the coronavirus pandemic has affected their views about the importance of benefits, and the shift is almost universally towards viewing benefits as more important. LIMRA finds that employers believe benefits directly related to healthcare — such as hospital indemnity, critical illness, and major medical plans — are more important now than before COVID-19. They have also expressed increased interest in offering some supplemental non-insurance benefits, particularly telehealth services, mental health benefits, and employee assistance programs, in response to the pandemic. From the employee perspective, more than half of employees (54%) view their insurance benefits as more valuable than they did before the pandemic.
This year, as many employers hold open enrollment for employee benefits in the fourth quarter, there are greater logistical challenges as so many companies have adopted work-at-home and other remote arrangements for their employees. LIMRA research shows more than 2 in 5 employers are interested in making changes to their enrollment program. The most common changes considered were to add or increase electronic enrollment and communications to better engage their remote workers and many said say they want their benefits carriers to help them.
In our latest LIMRA Unplugged episode Alison Salka, LIMRA research director, and Jonathan Bennett, head of Group Benefits at The Hartford, discuss how employers and employees are reacting to COVID-19 and what it means for workplace benefits.