Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fewer Than Half Of Employers Are Ready To Distribute Summary Of Benefits And Coverage

While 81 percent of employers plan to update their summary plan descriptions (SPDs) for plan design and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes this year, they continue to wrestle with cost containment and resource strain for the implementation and review process required to execute SPD changes, according to findings from HighRoads’ annual survey of U.S. companies and their current and future compliance communication plans and processes. HighRoads is a Woburn, Mass.-based provider of technology to automate benefits management.

“Cost containment was clearly top of mind for our respondents this year,” said Kim Buckey, SPD Practice Lead at HighRoads. “Employers are taking steps to reduce both the hard and ‘soft’ costs of producing SPDs even if they don’t have a handle on how much they’re actually spending. It is clear that those responsible for SPD costs have been given a mandate to reduce spend. Given the anticipated expense of producing the ACA required Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC, final regulations are expected to be released Friday, April 13) and other ERISA and ACA-related communications, this is no surprise,” she added.

In its November Pulse Survey report, HighRoads reported that nearly three-fifths (58 percent) of respondents said they were prepared to comply with the new SBC requirement under health care reform by the original March 2012 deadline. Nearly all of the respondents (91 percent) in HighRoads’ November study also stated that they would not consider eliminating some benefits coverage currently offered based on the complexity of the SBC requirements.

However, in Highroads’ SPD Survey, fewer than half of respondents (48 percent) expect to be ready to distribute SBCs by the end of March, the original deadline for initial SBC production, while 43 percent planned to be ready with the required SBCs by open enrollment.

The great majority of respondents (84 percent) plan to communicate to employees the 2012 plan changes required by the ACA through enrollment materials and more than half (52 percent) will revise SPDs. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents will handle these communications in house.

Mid- to large-sized employers throughout the United States, representing approximately 2.2 million total plan participants responded to the HighRoads Third Annual SPD Survey. For more information, visit

For a comprehensive analysis of the ACA, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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