What's the downside to using apps for employee benefit plans?

Using apps to improve member engagement in benefit plans is set to continue in 2015, but it might be working too well for some employers, according to one financial advisor.

What's the downside to using apps for employee benefit plans?
The trend of using mobile phone apps to drive benefit plan member engagement looks set to continue into 2015, but it might be working too well for some employers, according to one financial advisor.

“Moving forward it’s all about social media and social apps,” says Bill McElroy of William Douglas Group Inc. and Senior Financial Advisor with Manulife Securities Inc. “This whole new generation that’s coming into the workforce that’s what they’re geared to. The insurance companies aren’t issuing paper or format employee booklets anymore; they’re PDF, they’re all online. It’s defintiely trending to the internet for sure.”

Most large insurance companies now boast apps, leading to improved employee engagement, allowing them greater access to their plan to check on claims and see what stage their payments are at.

“That’s what is driving people to the websites – up until this point, members have just been phoning us and asking us what’s in their booklet,” says McElroy.

Now, employees are taking full advantage of all the beneifts they are entitiled to, with employers feeling the effects. “It’s been a double edged sword with employers as far as engaging the employees because the more the employees are engaged about the plan, the more they use it, which ends up costing the employers more money.”

Of course, this is balanced by the benefits of the plan for employers as well. “Hopefully in the long term it reduces absenteeism and saves the company money but it’s difficult,” says McElroy.

In a bid to help employers feeling the pinch McElroy suggests imposing clauses that restrict chiropractic or massage therapy by requiring medical forms showing the treatment is necessary. “You have to be really careful because it can really get abused,” he says. 

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