By Cyril Tuohy
If there is one gift employees and employers say they want this year, it’s better understanding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s a gift they are likely to get, but not this year.
Rarely have employees and employers been so united regarding a single benefits issue. They are confused.
The ACA has brought a great deal of change that employers and individuals need to be educated about, said Steve Bygott, assistant vice president of core market services for Colonial Life & Accident in Columbia, S.C. Employees and employers, he said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet, are “hyperaware of the need for help with the ACA.”
As many as 47 percent of workers say they are not very knowledgeable or not at all knowledgeable about the impact the ACA will have on them, according to an online survey conducted in September by Harris Interactive for Colonial Life.
In a LIMRA survey released Dec. 18, as many as 60 percent of Americans who used health exchanges to shop for coverage sought help when purchasing health insurance, and nearly half those who plan to shop for health insurance or are undecided on whether they plan to shop for health insurance think they will need help with the process.
In the benefits world, “The ACA has overshadowed all other things,” Bygott said.
“The ACA has magnified everything that is going on and has brought voluntary benefits more to the forefront in a way that they haven’t before,” Bygott said.
This Christmas, employers say they want to save money on their benefits program – but only so long as they can continue to offer a robust package – and employers would also like to see more participation in their wellness programs, which is central to lowering costs.
Voluntary benefits that are 100 percent paid by the employee will play a bigger role, and will likely broaden choices for employees, Bygott said. Voluntary programs alone, however, don’t necessarily mean savings, he also said.
Companies are looking for a better fit with benefits “partners” to fulfill their benefit program, including making enrollment easier, offering online services for employees and creating a more seamless system for administering benefits. “Those are all areas in which employers are looking for help to offset the costs,” Bygott said.
For their part, employees say they want employer-sponsored benefits to give them more choices to meet their individual needs based on marital status, income, age and lifestyle, Bygott said. “Having choices is important,” Bygott said.
Allowing employees to complement their disability coverage with accident or critical illness insurance offers relief to workers who know that at the very least basic protection needs are covered.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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