BOSTON--(HighRoads, the industry leader in employer health care compliance and benefits management.)--Employers are increasingly using electronic distribution and relying on outside assistance as existing and new federal regulations are requiring stepped up health plan communications, according to the findings of the fourth annual Compliance Communications Survey from
“It’s interesting that even with these challenges, most employers continue to view SPDs as valuable means to enhance employees’ understanding and appreciation of their benefit plans, she noted, observing that “33% of respondents plan to rewrite their SPDs to make them more user-friendly in the coming year.”
In key findings, interest in—and demand for—electronic distribution is continuing to grow. Currently, 80% of employers report using some form of electronic distribution, with online portals the most popular method. Specifically, with SPDs, 37% plan to shift to predominantly electronic distribution.
A new development this year is the advent of SBCs (Summaries of Benefits and Coverage) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which took effect September 23rd. To meet the aggressive timeframe, many employers will use a combined approach of online and hardcopy distribution. 20% will distribute SBCs exclusively online, while 16% will distribute only hardcopy SBCs.
Another critical finding is the increased use of electronic distribution and employees’ growing demand for mobile – and social media – access to their health plan information. More than half of the employers in the HighRoads survey said employees have asked them about receiving benefit information on their mobile devices. About a third of the employers are investigating the possibility of distribution by smart phone.
“Clearly, this is a time when employers are looking at compliance as a critical communications issue and making aggressive moves to embrace online delivery in order to respond to both regulatory requirements and employee needs,” said Kim Buckey, Principal, Communication Compliance Practice, HighRoads. “We are encouraged that the use of portals and mobile applications is increasing as a compliance solution, enabling employers to provide their plan participants with the most accurate and up-to-date plan information, in their preferred device. We expect to see employers explore additional forms of technology to meet changing workforce demands.”
Other key findings include:
- The biggest challenges facing employers in producing SPDs are having sufficient resources – time, staff and budget -- and managing the review process.
- Some 87% of employers plan on updating Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) within the next year, with some 73% now seeing SPDs as both a compliance and communication vehicle. This reflects a 10% increase in those who view SPDs as primarily a compliance vehicle.
- Few employers—only 16%—rely solely on internal resources to update and maintain SPDs. Three out of four employers work jointly with outside resources in the SPD process, while 9% rely completely on their vendors.
“Resource constraints continue to be a major challenge for employers, and 87% plan to update their SPDs over the coming year,” said Buckey. “It’s interesting that even with these challenges, most employers continue to view SPDs as valuable means to enhance employees’ understanding and appreciation of their benefit plans, she noted, observing that “33% of respondents plan to rewrite their SPDs to make them more user-friendly in the coming year.”
Mid- to large-sized employers throughout the United States, representing five million total plan participants, responded to the HighRoads survey. The employers were asked to share how they produce, update and distribute SPDs; their plans for increased use of technology to communicate benefit plan information, and the steps they are taking to meet the new SBC requirement.
Responding companies range in industry and include some of the leading organizations within the United States, including but not limited to: Accor; Aetna; AT&T Ball Corporation; Baystate Health; Bridgestone Americas, Inc.; Con-way Inc.; Dish Network LLC; Dover Corporation; Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare; Ford Motor Company; Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.; Hallmark Health System; Lancaster General Hospital; Local 338 Health & Welfare Fund; Lockheed Martin Corporation; Puget Sound Energy; Southern Wine & Spirits; UGI Utilities Inc.; Unisys Corporation and Weyerhauser.
Download a PDF version of the report here http://www.highroads.com/resources/#
The world’s leading employers choose HighRoads to gain complete control over their health care costs and compliance. HighRoads’ SaaS-based solutions provide employers with complete benefits management capability, including benefits plan information and pricing, competitive benefits benchmarks, and full benefits compliance. The privately-held company is headquartered in Woburn, MA. For more information, visit www.HighRoads.com. Follow us at @HighRoadsHR.
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