A study from benefits administration automation firm bSwift evaluates employers’ use of wellness programs and more technology in running benefit plans. (bSwift Study) The study is based on responses from 342 benefit decision makers at firms with more than 50 employees. Among large employers, those with more than 500 employees, 97% offer some type of wellness activity, with the most common being flu shots, first dollar coverage for wellness exams, health risk assessments, and gym memberships or onsite exercise centers. Biometric tests are now used by 60% of these employers. About 75% of employers use some positive or negative incentive in regard to wellness, with 55% incenting completion of HRAs, 43% cessation of tobacco use and 40% completion of biometric tests. The most common type of incentive is a health insurance premium discount or penalty. About half of employers offer incentives with a value of over $250. So far, only 13% incent or penalize specific biometric outcomes like weight or blood pressure, but expectations are that this practice will become much more widely used.
In regard to benefits administration few employers are taking full advantage of opportunities to more completely automate all the activities needed to run benefit plans, despite a potentially very large return on investment. Only about 60% use online enrollment for all benefits. Thirty percent continue to manually receive and reconcile paper health insurance bills. Similarly, many employers do not use technology to help with basic processes such as verifying dependent eligibility, dependent age-out or other live events like a marriage. Interestingly, smaller employers tend to be as far along in their use of technology as do the larger ones and also to offer wellness programs at a similar rate. The study demonstrates the continuing rapid growth in use of wellness programs, even though many companies are unsure of the payback and also indicates that significant savings could be achieved through greater use of automation in benefit and wellness program administration.