Colin Lionel Emm was born in the southern port city of Gosport, England, on a typically cloudy and rainy day in November of 1932. After a stint with the Merchant Marines, young Colin began a career in comedy under the alliterative stage name of “Dickie Dawson.” An appearance on the Dick Van Dyke Show led to numerous movie and TV roles.
Somewhere along the way, “Dickie” became “Richard,” and in 1976, Dawson became the host of the long-running game show “Family Feud.” He passed away last month, and despite a varied and successful career, he may be best remembered as the man who established the phrase “survey says” as an indelible part of the American lexicon. We live in an environment that seems to be exploding with surveys, so even today, Dawson’s catch phrase seems particularly appropriate.
In 2010, Vovici Research estimated that Americans are invited to take surveys 7 billion times a year and that 80% complete the surveys they start, yielding 2.6 billion survey responses a year. Of course, they came to those conclusions by conducting (let’s not always see the same hands!) surveys.
The rise of companies such as SurveyGizmo and QuestionPro have put survey technology in the hands of individuals, thus exponentially increasing survey mania.
It should be no surprise that the insurance industry is also a prodigious purveyor of surveys. Results can be surprising, instructive or, occasionally, both. Recently, CVS Caremark surveyed more than 1,000 of its customers. In the sample, 70% did not have insurance (curious), and the remaining 30% were covered by individual policies. Seventy-eight percent of the survey sample would be eligible for new coverage under PPACA, but those folks reported they had never heard of state-based health exchanges.
The good news for practitioners is that 60% of respondents in the CVS survey said they feel they will need help understanding health care insurance terms and descriptions and in navigating the new system. Helena Foulkes, CVS Caremark executive vice president and chief health care and strategy marketing officer, told BenefitsPro.com that, “Despite all the news coverage about health care reform, these survey results clearly show that consumers are confused about potential changes to our health care system.”
Foulkes added, “While awareness of the new law may grow over the next year as new services are put in place, consumers need help understanding the coming changes and support on how to sign up and participate in the exchanges.” The bad news is that the research found respondents believe doctors are the most credible source for information on exchanges, followed by pharmacists, nurse practitioners and then… independent insurance consultants.
Doctors? Really? Most doctors I know would be hard pressed to tell you the difference between a deductible and an out-of-pocket maximum. Nevertheless, while the survey may have cornered an unusual population, both key results are instructive. Of course, by the time you read this column, the Supreme Court of the United States may have made health care hash out of PPACA, and some, or all of this, may be quite different.
Thankfully, the proliferation of surveys offers other directional signs that are not PPACA dependent. Are you thinking about branching out and offering disability coverage? Whether you opt for a do-it-yourself approach or decide to create a strategic partnership with your local DI expert, a recent WellPoint Inc. study is instructive.
In its survey of 2,500 individuals (ages 18 and older), WellPoint found that two-thirds did not know what was covered by their disability plans. Forty percent thought disability insurance only covers injuries or accidents. Clearly, there is room for some expertise and the value it adds. There may be little that even the best practitioner can do for the 10% who thought buying disability insurance could “jinx” them. I’d stick to the other 90%.
Regardless of the legislative and regulatory environment, employee loyalty continues to be closely linked to satisfaction with benefits. The 10th annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends found nearly two-thirds of employees are very satisfied with the benefits offered and feel a strong sense of loyalty to their employer.
Employees also want to select a plan that best fits their needs: 74% said they place a high value on more personalized benefits geared to individual circumstances, and 73% of employees value a greater variety of benefits to choose from.
Voluntary benefits were even more popular among Gen X and Gen Y employees. Forty-one percent of employees surveyed — a 32% increase over last year’s survey — believe voluntary benefits are “significant.” Contrary to popular wisdom, these employees are willing to pay the cost for these benefits themselves.
A second survey conducted by Prudential Financial and CFO Research confirms this strategic direction. Sixty-nine percent of employers indicate their companies will likely increase their range of voluntary benefit offerings within two years, and 71% may replace some employer-paid benefits with voluntary benefits. Nearly a third of companies expect to adopt employee choice benefit strategies in the next 24 months. Advising employers and helping them structure voluntary benefit plans seems to be another way for benefits pros to diversify.
Practitioners do not need to go far to find a variety of reliable surveys, many of which offer insight into the mindset of employers and employees alike. If you understand where those constituencies have interest, you have a tailor-made blueprint for steering your practice through whatever comes from D.C. or your state capitol.
As our industry changes, we will all need to be as clever and resourceful as Dawson’s memorable Cpl. Peter Newkirk on “Hogan’s Heroes.” The alternative is to be like another Hogan’s character, Sgt. Shultz, whose oft-repeated catch phrase was, “I see nothing! I hear nothing! I know nothing!”