Picwell Blog

Not All Employee Benefits Decision Support Technology is Created Equal

Jan 30, 2020 7:10:13 AM / by Picwell

Most employees get stressed out when it’s time to enroll in their benefits and desperately need the process to be less complicated. In fact, a recent Willis Towers Watson report found that more than 40% of employees wish shopping for health insurance was like browsing on Amazon’s website — where all of the options can easily be compared. To assist employees with this growing necessity, more than 80% of employers plan to offer their workforce a decision support tool within the next two years.

Overall, this is great news. However, buyer beware: not all decision support tools are created equal. In fact, many decision support solutions dramatically fall short of solving the key problem at hand: employees are not confident that they can choose the right benefits. In order for their concerns to be adequately addressed, an effective decision support tool must make the benefits enrollment experience easy, accurate, and personalized.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Make it easy

Choosing benefits overwhelms many of your employees because there is too much complex information to wade through and too many decisions to be made. When faced with this information overload, many employees will simply shut down and avoid making choices because it’s more comfortable to just stick with what they have. The best decision support tools make benefits choices easy so that employees actually engage in the process.

Effective decision support tools shouldn’t require your employees to answer questions that they can’t possibly know the answer to, such as how many times they plan to visit the hospital next year. One of the primary reasons we need insurance is because it’s difficult to predict what our health care needs will be, so asking your employees to anticipate them as the basis for their benefits selection sets them up for failure from the start.

A helpful decision support tool will ask your employees easy-to-answer questions, such as age and regular medications taken. Then, it will consult a vast database of other healthcare consumers like them in order to arrive at a data driven estimate of their future health care needs. Unfortunately, many decision support programs on the market don’t take these extra steps.

In addition to being easy to use, decision support tool recommendations should be easy to understand. Researchers at Stanford found that employees have a better benefits selection experience when they have access to a single metric that they could use to compare health plans. Since health plans are comprised of countless, intertwined pieces of data, choosing just one element to focus on (like deductible or premium) likely isn’t going to result in the best plan selection. Therefore, truly effective decision support tools, like Picwell, boil every health plan offered down to a numeric score based on the degree of fit with each employee. This makes it easy for them to see which option will best suit their needs.

Make it accurate

The best decision support tools will base health plan recommendations on accurate forecasts of both usage and cost. They do this by plugging the employee’s estimated health care needs into the total cost for each plan that you offer. Further, the best predictions provide information about both the average total cost and the potential variation in total cost - or financial risk - that your employee would face in each plan. This approach allows decision support tools to tell your employee which is the most affordable plan that still provides an appropriate level of risk protection.

Further, recent research indicates that when employees have a solid understanding of their total benefits cost, they are typically much more satisfied with and confident in their plan selections. That’s because when people know their total cost, they can see what’s ahead and formulate a strategy in advance. With steadily rising out-of-pocket medical expenses wreaking havoc on ever-tightening household budgets, your employees need to plan for their care more than ever. Consumer-driven trends like high-deductible health insurance and HSAs can further complicate the planning process. Therefore, the best decision support tools not only highlight the most appropriate health plan option for each employee, they also suggest how workers could cover their portion of any upcoming medical bills.

Pro Tip: When evaluating potential decision support tools, ask the companies about how they ensure accurate health plan recommendations.

Make it personalized

Since each of your employee’s circumstances are unique, each of their insurance needs will be different. Some workers will require more medical care than others. Some of them may have enough money in the bank to cover expensive medical bills. And, regardless of both of these elements, some of your employees may be extremely uncomfortable with risk. Unfortunately, many decision support resources available don’t factor in these important nuances.

Effective decision support tools account for these individualized needs, circumstances, and preferences. The best tools will also keep an eye on overall benefit value, determining when it’s a good idea to buy more expensive insurance and when it’s not. Therefore, it’s possible for two employees with similar medical histories and projected health care needs to get different health plan recommendations. Superior decision support gives each of your employees a truly personalized experience.

Final thoughts

When you’re shopping for a decision support tool, remember: the products available vary just as much as the needs of your workforce. That’s why you should aim to select a resource that makes the benefits selection process easy (and maybe even fun!), accurate, and personalized. Picwell does all of these things exceptionally well and has a proven track record of helping employees select health plans that are the optimal balance of risk protection and affordability.

Topics: Open Enrollment, Benefits Decision Support, HR Tech


Written by Picwell