Healthcare costs have been on the rise over the past decade. In response, some employers have scaled back on their health insurance offerings, at times leaving gaps in coverage. As a result, the voluntary benefits market, where employees pay the premiums, has become more popular among employers.
These voluntary benefits programs, however, have underlying costs to employers, including those related to implementation and administration. Digital tools can help employers reduce these costs by simplifying operations and improving efficiency.
A LIMRA survey looked at how employers are using digital tools to implement and administer voluntary benefits. When it comes to employers, 93% report access to a digital tool for online billing (most often available digital tool). The ability to file bulk wellness claims is the least used digital tool, though 71% of employers report access to this capability.
“Employers want to simplify processes such as plan administration and billing, and technology is key to meeting these goals,” says Mary Lesch, Ph.D., associate research director, Workplace Benefits Research.
When it comes to digital tools for employees, being able to download forms to print and complete manually is the most commonly reported digital tool, while “paperless” claims submission and text message notifications, at 51% and 52% respectively, are least likely to be available to employees.
For employers that currently have access to an individual digital tool for their own use, usage rates range between 58% of employers for web chat up to 78% for online billing and a dedicated web portal for benefits administration.
Remote Work May Speeds Up Need for Digital Tools
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an existing trend for an increasingly remote workforce. Other LIMRA research indicates that in May 2020, just two months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 37% of companies reported that 75% or more of their employers were working remotely. More than two thirds of employers surveyed believe that it is at least somewhat likely that a portion of these newly remote workers will continue to work remotely some of the time after the pandemic is over.
“It is reasonable to assume that as likelihood of remote work increases, so will the importance of digital tools,” Lesch notes.
Other LIMRA research shows that about one third of employers believe that providing/improving employer/employee self-service options are among the most important things their carriers have already done or could do to help their businesses cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To get ahead and stay ahead, carriers must take advantage of every opportunity to offer value to employers. Our data indicate a direct link between the number of digital tools available and used and employer satisfaction in ongoing service,” Lesch adds.