The State of Workplace Wellness & Benefits Automation: Room to Improve, According to bswift Study
CHICAGO, IL — Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Most employers have established employee wellness programs in an effort to combat the spiraling costs of health care. Many employers incent employee participation. However, bswift’s fourth annual study found that most employers overlook key strategies that could improve their impact on employee wellness and the bottom line. For example, most employers continue to offer small incentives relative to the behavioral changes desired, and focus those incentives on participation rather than results. In addition, relatively few employers leverage defined contribution strategies to increase consumer engagement or comprehensive benefits automation to reduce administrative costs.
According to the bswift 2013 Wellness & Benefits Administration Benchmarking Study, conducted in conjunction with Employee Benefit News, 85 percent of large companies and 81 percent of smaller companies have wellness programs in place. But only 44 percent of these programs have employee participation rates above 50 percent. This is despite the fact that 78 percent of large employers and 69 percent of smaller employers offer an incentive to motivate employee participation.
“High levels of participation are critical for wellness program success, but companies are falling short when it comes to outcomes-based incentives that reward participants for their actions and increase engagement in these programs,” said Brad Wolfsen, Executive Director at bswift. “To move the needle on wellness, assessments must be objective, progress must be measurable, and employees must be invested in their own wellness success.”
The study included results from an online survey of 380 benefit decision makers at organizations with at least 50 employees offering benefits. Large employers are defined as those with more than 500 benefit-eligible employees and smaller employers had 50 to 500 benefit-eligible employees.
Additional key findings include:
- Employers are increasingly investing in wellness incentives. In 2013, more employers offered incentives to motivate employee participation in wellness programs. While large employers only experienced a slight increase from 76 to 78 percent, the use of incentives by smaller employers increased from 52 to 69 percent.
- Biometric testing emerged as the foundation of most wellness programs. This year, 77 percent of large employers said they have biometric testing in place for employees compared to last year’s 61 percent.
- Employers are reluctant to hold employees accountable for improving biometric testing results. Only 15 percent of large employers offer incentives/disincentives for meeting or exceeding biometric thresholds.
- Premium adjustments are the most common incentive payment mechanism. Most large employers (64 percent, up from 59 percent in 2012) use health insurance premium discounts or surcharges to motivate employees.
- The dollar value of wellness incentives continues to increase. More than half of large companies, 54 percent, reported spending more than $250 annually per employee on wellness, compared to 49 percent in 2012.
- While defined contribution has received substantial press in the past year, few employers are adopting this approach for active employees. Only 14 percent of large employers are considering a defined contribution approach for their active employees in 2014.
The study also assessed employers’ use of automated benefits administration and found that almost one-third (31 percent) of large employers do not offer online benefit enrollment for new hires. Similarly, 31 percent of large employers still manually adjust coverage amounts when employees turn 65 or 70; and 63 percent manually verify dependent eligibility for life events. These high numbers suggest a significant opportunity for administrative cost savings, especially given the availability of economically viable technology that automates these processes.
“What it boils down to is that employers are being too simplistic when it comes to wellness offerings and making things too difficult when it comes to benefits administration. As employers peruse cost containment strategies such as wellness, defined contribution, and consumerism, automation and technology can amplify the impact by more efficiently and effectively communicating with employees and freeing up the time of HR professionals to focus on these strategic initiatives,” said bswift CEO Rich Gallun.
bswift is changing the world of benefits administration by combining deep expertise and a passion for technological innovation with a unique consumer-driven approach. Partnering with enterprises nationwide and serving millions of employees, bswift offers cloud-based technology and services for online enrollment, interactive decision support, ACA compliance reporting and employee engagement. bswift also provides access to consumerism, product and consulting solutions needed to build a benefits program specialized for both employers and employees alike. For more information about bswift, an Aetna company, visit www.bswift.com.
MEDIA CONTACTEmma Frutkin