Choice and Communication Are Keys to Successful Consumer-Driven Benefits Program

by Austin Baker

Employers everywhere are feeling the pinch of double-digit health insurance inflation. One trend that’s getting some notice as a possible solution is the consumer-driven benefits approach, which typically couples a high-deductible health plan with a personal health account, such as a health savings account. The thinking behind this approach is that employees may be more careful about managing health care expenses when they’re footing a larger portion of the bill. To successfully implement the consumer-driven benefits approach with your employees, there are two critical factors that must be part of your implementation plan:

  • Voluntary benefits choices designed to complement medical plan choices
  • Effective, multi-channel education sessions with trained benefits professionals

Voluntary benefits bring employees choice

With the move toward high-deductible health plans, your role is changing from providing and paying for traditional benefits to providing access to a wide variety of quality benefits — both core and voluntary. This way, you can maintain a competitive benefits package and still provide employees with options to lessen the effects of their increased financial risk for medical expenses:

1. Provide choices in health plans. Many employers are offering a menu of two or more health plans ranging from full coverage plans with higher premiums to high-deductible plans with lower premiums. Employees can then select health coverage that makes sense for their own situation.

2. Use voluntary benefits to expand benefits program choices. Voluntary benefits can enhance and expand your benefits program without additional budget constraints. You can offer a wide variety of individual and group voluntary insurance products from life to disability and supplemental health coverage, and you can fund some of the costs or let employees pay the premiums. Employees can then choose products they need to fill any coverage gaps.

Effective benefits education is essential

With the consumer-driven benefits approach, if you don’t effectively educate employees on their benefits, employees perceive the approach as mere cost-shifting. That’s why effective benefits education is vital. A enrollment and voluntary benefits partner can bring you not only product solutions but also benefits education solutions, such as one-to-one employee sessions that cover core benefits in addition to voluntary benefits. Technology solutions alone will not result in more understanding. The conversation is more personal and taking time to do it right can yield tremendous results. When done well, benefits education can help employees learn about their benefits and learn about the value of what their employer provides. These sessions can be provided in multiple channels ranging from call center, to face-to-face, to web co-browsing private webinar style sessions.

In fact, a Harris Interactive poll conducted for Colonial Life showed that 82 percent of workers who rated their employee benefits education highly also rated their employer an excellent or very good place to work. Conversely, only 27 percent of workers who rated their employee benefits education as fair or poor said their employer was an excellent or very good place to work.

Find a quality enrollment partners and voluntary benefits provider who can help you successfully implement the consumer-driven benefits approach by bringing manpower, technology, voluntary coverage choices and effective benefits education capabilities. You can benefit through better management of your benefits program budget, an enhanced benefits program and improved attraction and retention rates for quality employees. Employees can benefit by having a variety of coverage choices to meet their needs and by getting help to understand their benefits and the value of them.

Case Study

One large public sector entity was working to introduce high deductible health plans for the first time to employees that were accustomed to deductibles of less than $500. A strategy was built, working with their chosen enrollment partner to select a great voluntary benefits provider and a specific set of programs, that would encourage and support employees to choose the higher deducible plans while saving premium dollars and enjoying the comfort of a “soft landing” with separate insurance coverage to make up the gaps. A marketing plan was produced, an enrolment system was configured and built, and an enrollment and communications plan was executed a using call center, face to face and web co-browsing to see more that 5,000 employees. The results were more than 30% of the employees choosing the higher deductible plans with a 96% benefit satisfaction rate. HR learned that many employees needed more choices and more communication to help employees truly adopt their consumer driven approach and the results are a win for both employees and the employer.

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About the Author

Austin Baker is the President of HRO Partners a Human Resources Consulting and Benefit Administration and Enrollment Firm as well as a Premier District General Agent for Colonial Life, one of the largest insurance and enrollment firms in the Country. A veteran of more than 16 years in the Human Resources Industry insurance and benefits industry, Baker is responsible for managing a multi-faceted Human Resources consulting company that also represents Colonial Life’s products, programs and services focused on companies in the Southeastern United States.

HRO Partners is a fast growing provider of Benefit Enrollment Solution that works with many strategic vendor partners such as Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company who is a market leader in providing financial protection benefits through the workplace, including disability, life, accident, dental, cancer, critical illness and hospital confinement indemnity insurance. The company’s benefit services and education, innovative enrollment technology and personal service support more than 80,000 businesses and organizations, representing more than 3 million of America’s workers and their families. For more information, call Baker at 1-866-822-0123, visit or connect with the company at, or