While most employers still want to offer comprehensive benefit packages to their employees, many are concerned they won’t be able to in the future, highlighting the important role benefit advisers can play in helping employers create a strategic and successful benefits strategy.

In an effort to attract new employees, nine out of 10 employers surveyed by the Windsor, Conn.-based research firm LIMRA say they must offer medical insurance, and most employers (80%) feel they should pay some or all of the premium for their workers' benefits. Yet, just over half of the surveyed employers expect the Affordable Care Act to have a negative impact on their ability to offer medical benefits in the near future. Eighty-five percent also say controlling the costs of health care is an important or critical challenge.

The labor market is competitive and “the need for employer-sponsored benefit packages is not going away,” says Donald Garlitz, executive director of exchange solutions for the Chicago, Ill.-based benefit administration group bswift. 

“Employers will continue to need to sponsor group insurance plans and they will continue to need help navigating benefit plans,” he says, adding there remains a strong and important role for benefit advisers going forward.

Particularly in advance of 2018, when the Cadillac tax goes into effect, employers need to be rethinking their benefit plan offerings, Garlitz says. “Benefit advisers need to be in front of their clients now helping them navigate their benefit strategy,” he notes.

LIMRA’s study, called Employee Benefits at a Crossroads, also found that while 44% of employers believe companies need to use different benefit communication strategies for different employee populations, 80% admit to using the same strategy for all employees.

“This highlights an opportunity for advisers and carriers to better serve employers' needs by helping them to customize their approaches to benefits education,” the LIMRA report says.

In terms of plan choice, 57% of employers surveyed say they believe employees want plans with multiple benefit choices and plan features. Thirty-five percent say they believe their employees want limited choices and 8% of employers said they were not sure how much choice their employees wanted in their benefit packages.

Nearly half of employers say they conduct employee benefit surveys "once in a while." Another 15% percent conduct benefit surveys on a regular basis, while 38% say they never do them. 

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