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Employees lack benefits information for well-informed decisions, studies find

May 17th, 2023

A very strong majority of survey respondents, 81% said they would welcome benefit information outside the open enrollment period.

By Scott Wooldridge, BenefitsPRO Magazine

Even though employee benefits have been a point of emphasis for employers in a tight labor market, a new survey has found that many employees lack enough information for well-informed decisions. Two studies by companies involved in the benefits field point to a need for more education and support.

A survey of 800 full-time workers by LegalShield found that nearly half of the workers surveyed, 47%, said they felt unprepared to make informed decisions during their company’s open enrollment period. The report presented with the survey data suggested that employers could do a better job of informing employees about their options, and that the process should be an ongoing on.

“The norm in today’s world is to be constantly connected and have access to information. Employers must communicate employee benefits in a relevant and timely manner to keep their workforce informed and help them make decisions that align with their needs,” said Emily B. Rose, LegalShield’s SVP of broker and partnership sales. “Regular benefit communication ensures employees are aware of their options.”

A year-round effort

The survey found that given the complexity of information, especially at a time when many companies are expanding their benefit offerings, employees are open to enrollment communication year-round.

A very strong majority of survey respondents, 81% said they would welcome benefit information outside the open enrollment period. In addition, the LegalShield report said that employers should make sure that their information sources are as comprehensive as possible. Another important step is to encourage employee attendance at benefit informational meets, whether they are live or virtual. Finally, as other studies have found, multiple delivery methods and formats are necessary to reach a wide range of employees.

These other methods of communication are crucial, the report said. “According to the findings, more than half of respondents (52%) stated they didn’t receive sufficient information during open enrollment,” the report said. “These results suggest a significant lack of awareness about key features and coverages provided through their benefit plans, often leading to uninformed selections and lower participation.”

A growing need for legal assistance, protection against identity theft

Not surprisingly, the LegalShield study zeroed in on the need for legal assistance. The survey found that 47% of respondents expressed an interest in voluntary legal plans as a benefit. These plans would include direct access to an attorney, contract and document review, and the option of emergency access to legal services. In addition to the 47% interested in the benefit, 68% of employees who had experienced a legal issue in the past were interested in enrolling in a voluntary legal plan.

Other services the study looked at included identity theft protection benefits. Among all respondents, the study found that 41% expressed interest in an identity theft benefit. “Of those subjected to an identity theft attempt, 51% expressed interest in enrolling in an identity theft protection voluntary plan if one were available to them at work,” the report said.

These findings are comparable a recent report from Cigna Healthcare, which found in a survey that 77% of identity theft victims reported increased stress and said they had spent up to six months resolving the problems caused by the theft.

Cigna recommended including identity theft protection as part of an overall wellness strategy. “Many of us don’t think about identity protection when we consider ways to maintain and improve whole-person health,” said Bruce Grimm, senior vice president, U.S. Markets, Cigna Healthcare. “Providing peace of mind to those we serve includes financial and emotional well-being support.”

Original article appeared in BenefitsPRO Magazine on May 16, 2023. Link to the article.