CHICAGO — There is a need for an “extreme makeover” in the house of benefits with a delivery system built on partnership, collaboration, accountability and engagement —  rather than competitiveness, says Larry Boress of the Midwest Business Group on Health.

Speaking in a keynote address Monday at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Mania Conference at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, Boress, president and chief executive of the Chicago-based employer organization, says that advisers and brokers need to understand their clients if they want to be successful.

Boress advocates a renovation where benefits become aligned with what is most important to the client, such as bottom line. “Advisers are . . . at a crossroads. What direction are we going to take,” he says. “If we’re going to stay in the game, we gotta start aligning benefits . . . [and] help employer and employee manage the cost they have.”

It comes down to behavioral economics, he says, and giving people a financial reason to make a decision. Not will employees receive money as an incentive, but that they are going to pay more if they don’t comply. For example, one company Boress works with has employees take health assessments and if they do not follow up with what the assessment finds, they will default to more expensive coverage. 

“There are lots of things we can do . . . and lots of things you can talk to your clients about roles they need to play,” Boress says. “Get employers to act more like consumers.”

“[We] need mutual accountability . . . [employees] need to change from entitlement to engagement mentality,” he adds.

Among accountability standards Boress suggests are providers and pharmacies proving they deliver higher performance. “[We] need to talk with vendors on how they can become partners with employers,” he says. “They need to understand the problem, prove their worth.”

Follow Kalish’s coverage of the Workplace Benefits Mania Conference on Twitter @Benefit_Brian.

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