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Employers turning to brokers for more help, MetLife poll confirms

Employee Benefit Advisor reports:

“As a result of health care reform, employers – especially smaller ones – are turning to their benefits consultants, brokers and agents for more help, according to a new poll from MetLife.

The MetLife Health Care Reform Poll, released Jan. 25, found that 57% of employers with fewer than 500 employees and 48% of employers with 500 or more workers say they will be relying on their consultants, brokers and agents more than ever.

The poll also found that while many small employers are not sure about their next action steps, larger employers are considering changes to their health plan design and increasing their cost-sharing arrangements with employees. For example, 39% of employers with 500 or more employees are considering plan design changes, and 40% are considering increasing cost sharing. For small employers (fewer than 50 employees) the corresponding numbers were 22% and 24%; for mid-sized employers (between 50 and 500 employees) the numbers were 28% and 28%.

Larger employers are also planning to focus more on wellness and disease management programs as a result of health care reform, the MetLife poll found. While 11% of employers with fewer than 500 employees say they will put greater emphasis on these programs, the percentage more than doubles, to 27%, for employers with 500 or more employees.

The majority of both small and large employers say they currently have no plans to reduce their spending on non-medical benefits in the wake of health care reform. The poll found that only one in 10 employers with fewer than 500 employees, and two in 10 with 500 or more workers, anticipate reducing spending on benefits like disability, life and dental insurance as a result of the legislation. In fact, 43% of employers feel strongly that offering non-medical benefits will become a more important strategy for their companies over the next five years.

“This is good news for workers, since the poll also found that health care reform has increased the importance of non-medical benefits to them,” says Dr. Ronald Leopold, vice president and national medical director, U.S. Business, MetLife. “The poll found that 71% of employees who say they have a good understanding of health care reform also say that their non-medical benefits are very important in driving their feelings of employer loyalty, compared to only 57% of employees who admit they don’t have a good understanding of the legislation.”

MetLife interviewed 1,508 benefits decisionmakers and 1,412 full-time employees age 21 and over. The poll was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2010.”

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