passive enrollment Prevent “passive enrollment” and empower employees to evaluate their health options

From Associated Financial Group’s Employee Benefits eLine

Evaluating health plans — and helping your employees to do so — is one of the top five priorities for employers in 2013, according to Following the #1 priority of preparing for the health reform law's 2014 requirements, reports, employers must "Evaluate the level of benefits provided" and communicate those benefits to employees.

However, studies also show that employees are overwhelmed by expanding options and increasing complexity of health plans. Today, Americans find health insurance decisions the second most difficult major life decision only behind saving for retirement (36%) and slightly more difficult than purchasing a car (23%), according to a recent survey by

Provide information that is clear and relevant

The consumer-driven trend has empowered employees, but it has also placed a greater burden on them to understand and manage their health plans and other benefits. As a result, employees often complain about “information overload” — and those are the motivated, engaged employees. When faced with complex or confusing benefits, some employees choose to disengage and neglect their decisions. This, in turn, decreases enrollment, participation, and creates a chain reaction of problems for your organization.

How do you prevent information overload and all of its attendant problems? The solution is simple: provide information that is clear and relevant to employees. Implementing this solution, however, is not possible for some employers because they lack the tools and resources to provide employees with tailored information about their particular health plans.

Increase employee accountability, but also provide support

According to the 17th annual survey of large employers by the National Business Group on Health, employers continue to consider their benefits package a major component in retaining and recruiting top employees. At the same time, employers are also focusing on plans designs that help control costs and provide more accountability. How does this impact the importance of employee education and communication? If you want employees to use your organization's health plan properly, you must give them tools to understand and select the right plan.

The alternative results in employees passively enrolling in whatever is familiar to them — and making poor choices. A recent article by WebMD said, “When consumers find benefits daunting, they are more likely to just say 'the plan I had is good enough' and do nothing. But the 'status quo' could cost individuals more.”

Therefore, employees should take into account the following considerations:

  • Have plan costs increased?
  • Have their own healthcare needs changed?
  • Are they adding a child to their plan?
  • Is it time to change their account contributions?

Help employees estimate their annual health care costs

Associated Financial Group (AFG) has developed a solution called Health Plan Selector. Health Plan Selector is a new tool that empowers your employees to evaluate the health plans available to them, using their anticipated health care expenses.

Health Plan Selector provides an easy way to estimate the financial impact of all the plans available to employees, including aconsumer-driven health plan. This innovative consumer tool is complimentary to all AFG mainline clients as part of the Employee Access Portal. (Contact your Benefit Consultant today for more information on Employee Access.)

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Clarity and ease of use. “Our tool is unique. For certain types of employer-sponsored health plans, the plan design information can be pre-loaded, making the employee’s experience with Health Plan Selector even easier,” says Melissa Hukriede, director/vice president of Client Services Technology at Associated Financial Group. Employees can also create their own personal Health Plan Selector account, which enables them to save their information so it’s pre-loaded into their session the next time they use Health Plan Selector.
  • Flexible. Health Plan Selector allows employees to add as many health plan options as needed for comparison. “For example, when employees are deciding between their employer’s plan and their spouse’s plan, they can plug in the spouse’s plan information to compute the family’s estimated health costs and compare them under the two plans,” Hukriede says.
  • Robust. Health Plan Selector can take into account employer contributions and rollovers to CDHPs. “For example, suppose you gave employees $500 in a health reimbursement account (HRA) last year, and an employee used only half that amount,” Hukriede says. “Health Plan Selector allows the employee to plug that extra $250 into the calculations to see how it affects their estimated health care costs. Or, employees can enter the employer’s contribution (or their own contribution) to a health savings account. It offers a much more realistic estimate when you include health care account contributions into the overall estimate.”

A solution for your employees

Once employees see how easy it is to compare plans with Health Plan Selector, they may find that choosing a CDHP can save them money. “Putting the power of Health Plan Selector in their hands can make comparing their health plans and making an informed choice much easier,” Hukriede says. Your organization ultimately benefits from your employees using Health Plan Selector. When employees fully consider all plan options, they are more informed, save as much money as possible on their health care needs, are more likely to optimize their pre-tax accounts (such as an HRA, HSA or FSA) and overall are more satisfied with the benefits package.

To learn more about Health Plan Selector, contact Associated Financial Group at or 800‑258‑3190.

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Insurance products are offered by licensed agents of Associated Financial Group, LLC. (“AFG”). • Insurance products offered are NOT deposits or obligations of, insured by the FDIC or any agency of the United States. • AFG is an affiliate of Associated Banc-Corp (“AB-C”). • AB-C and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult with your tax, legal or accounting advisors regarding your individual situation. This material is for information solely and should not be construed as tax, legal or accounting advice. Copyright © 2013 by Associated Financial Group, LLC. All rights reserved.