One Company’s Answer to the Incredible Shrinking Health Benefit
By Bob Brenner, CEO, Liaison Technologies
Every year, something terrifying comes around: open enrollment.
For a small handful of employees, it’s a much-anticipated opportunity to switch to a more suitable health plan or retool coverage. But for most, especially those content with their current plans, this annual event is cause for dread. How much have my premiums risen? Is my plan being eliminated? Will my primary physician still be in-network? Do I have to eat my veggies as part of the company’s new wellness program?
There’s a lot of uncertainty for employees surrounding health benefits — with good reason. Premiums have risen dramatically in the past decade and, adding insult to injury, the average percentage of premiums workers contribute has risen even more dramatically (81% since 2004 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/HRET 2014 Employer Health Benefits Survey).
As CEO of a growing technology company, I’ve seen this uncertainty first-hand. In fact, for two years running now, Liaison employee focus groups have ranked health benefits as the second most meaningful type of motivational compensation — only behind base pay. This means that health benefits consistently beat out stock options, bonuses, and fun perks like stocked breakrooms or annual retreats. It also means that they aren’t the ‘given’ that I remember them being 15 years ago at Liaison’s start, when it went without saying (or asking) that solid health benefits were part of the standard package.
So, at a time when more and more companies are passing on more and more costs to employees by way of increased premium contributions, spousal eligibility restrictions, narrowed networks, and other ‘creative’ measures, we’ve decided to take the opposite tack. In a company-wide town hall this past December, our vice president of HR announced that Liaison would begin covering 100% of all health premiums for employees and their dependents. As you can imagine, it went over well.
Why did we join the very select ranks of companies providing 100% premium coverage? (According to the same survey I referenced earlier, only 2% of large companies cover 100% of family premiums.) First and foremost, we wanted to find a way to honor what employees communicate to us they value the most. But I’d be amiss if I didn’t also mention that it makes sound business sense. With companies trending in the other direction, Liaison now has another powerful tool with which to differentiate itself when retaining and recruiting top talent.
I don’t know what the future holds for employee health benefits in the United States. They may continue to diminish, uncouple from employers altogether, or make a strong comeback. But until the verdict comes in, I feel good knowing that our company is providing some added peace of mind to its employees — and staying the fate of the incredible shrinking health benefit.