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Uba Survey Shows Fewer Differences In Employers' Benefits, Services

INDIANAPOLIS, May 16 /PRNewswire/ -- United Benefit Advisors (UBA), (http://benefits.com ), an alliance of 138 of the nation's premier independent benefit advisory firms, today released the results of its 2006 UBA Employer Survey. In addition to polling employers as to the extent and effectiveness of their current and planned wellness and disease management programs, the survey identified the range of employee benefits offered, the various employee communications strategies in place or contemplated, and employers' wish list for future adoption in these critical areas.

"The most significant finding from this year's survey is that there are far fewer differences in either current or desired services among employers in different industry groups or with differing numbers of employees than was commonly assumed," said David LoCascio, UBA's Co-Founder. "The increasing applicability of web-based solutions and the growing sophistication of benefits advisors have enabled employers of all sizes to have access to tools and services that were previously available only to large employers."

The prevalence of some specific benefits, certain web-based services and a few employee programs (including wellness and disease management initiatives) continue to increase progressively as the number of employees increase. However, the only factors notably more prevalent for employers with 1,000+ employees versus all other size employers were:

  • Use of Employee self-service technology (45% vs. 23%).
  • Employees of 1,000+ groups are less aware of the reasons for increasing costs or benefits reductions or of emerging trends than the employees of smaller companies.
  • Employees of 1,000+ groups were more upset about such changes and have greater decreases in morale than employees of smaller companies.

The adoption of personal health management strategies by employers of all sizes continues to increase as evidenced by:

  • Roughly 25% of all employers currently provide various wellness and/or health risk assessment programs, and an additional 50% of employers would like to add such programs in the future.
  • Approximately 30% of all employers currently utilize disease management programs, and an additional 33% hope to someday.

"We have reached a tipping point regarding employer involvement in helping to manage the health of its workforce," said Mr. LoCascio. "The approach of hoping the physicians and/or the insurance companies would effectively intervene to improve the health of its employees has not worked and employers are increasingly assuming more responsibility and control."

Due to a decade of significant increases in medical plan costs and the resulting decreases in benefits and increases in employee costs, employers have also placed a greater emphasis on educating employees as to the reasons for plan changes and on how they can help improve their health and reduce the cost of their health plans. Survey findings in this area include:

  • Nearly three-quarters of all employers think employees can become better health care consumers if given the tools to do so (provider cost and quality information, employer-based education on how to manage costs, employee decision support tools, etc.).
  • This is in contrast to half of all employers who feel that plan design changes (High Deductible plans, etc.) will make better consumers.
  • Employee education initiatives also extend to retirement plans with nearly 50% of all employers now providing employees with in-person consultations with financial professionals regarding their retirement savings and investment options.

"Employers of all sizes have seen that effective employee communication can have a notable direct impact on plan costs," said Mr. LoCascio. "Employees have a huge vested interest in helping contain costs in order to stem the erosion in plan benefits and the increased hit to their pocketbooks from higher premium costs; and most are willing and able to do so if provided the tools and information required."

The survey polled 1,675 employers comprising a very representative cross- section of companies across all industry groups, various employee size categories, and regions of the country. Copies of the survey are available for purchase via UBA's website at http://www.benefits.com .