Benefits Administration

What shopping for jam reveals about your benefits strategy

How many health plan choices should you offer your people? It’s an important question as you think through your 2017 strategy. In theory, more choice is a good thing, right?

Not always.

A theory called "The Paradox of Choice" states too many choices can cause more harm than good

It turns out, having too many choices causes indecision. An interesting theory called “The Paradox of Choice” reveals that giving people too many choices can cause more harm than good. (If you have a few minutes, there’s a great TED talk about it). The theory is based on a famous study of people buying jam in a grocery store.

In one situation, customers were presented with six types of jam to choose from. In the other, customers had 24 different jams to choose from. What happened when consumers had more choices? It turns out those customers actually bought less jam because it was too hard to make a choice. Not only that, those customers that did manage to choose one of the 24 choices were more likely to regret their choice and wonder if they made a mistake. It turns out, more choices lead to more indecision, frustration and a lot of second guessing.

So what can jam teach you about your benefits strategy? When it comes to how many plans to offer your employees, less is probably more.
In fact, a recent study conducted by Employee Benefit News found that 75% of benefit leaders worry about the level of frustration that employees currently have with choosing a health plan and 40% of benefits leaders worry that private exchanges give employees too many plan choices.

How do you make sure that you aren’t giving your employees too many choices?

Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • Determine the right amount. What works best for your people? Do they want more variety or are they looking fewer – but better – options? Take a look at your population’s demographics and offer them fewer plans that address more of their needs. So instead of offering 5 or 6 plans that might overwhelm them, consider offering the two to three they want.
  • Ask questions. Take the time to talk to your people, or better yet, conduct a short survey to help guide your offerings in 2017. Consider asking:
    • What do they like about their current plan options?
    • What do they want more of?
    • What do they think is missing?
    • How did they feel about last year’s open enrollment and the number and type of choices?
  • Find the right mix. Find plans that offer more of what your employees want and less of what they don’t. See how you can integrate different wellness programs to round out your plans.
    Stay on top of the trends. Some of the biggest focus areas for employers right now are around fertility, maternity, mental health and wellness plans and programs. Shop around for ones that make sense for your people and package them into your 2017 plans.

For help on your overall 2017 benefits strategy planning, check out our recent webinar and Benefits Quick Start Guide where you’ll get the right questions you and your team should be asking as you look toward the right mix of health plans and programs for the coming year.

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