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Guardian Survey: More Than Half of Small Business Employers Who Offer Benefits Encounter Challenges During Open Enrollment Season
Date:10/27/2008

Two-Fifths Plan to Take Action to Control Healthcare Costs

Engaging Employees and Providing Clear, Easy-to-Understand Information Are Key Challenges

NEW YORK, Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- More than half of small business employers who offer employee benefits encounter challenges during the enrollment process, according to a recent study from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), a leading provider of employee and voluntary benefits to small and midsize companies.

The study, conducted just prior to the volatile events on Wall Street, examined small business owners' (1 to 100 employees) decisions about employee benefits. The survey release coincides with the beginning of the fall open enrollment season when millions of employees make important decisions about their benefits for the coming year.

The study revealed that more than 40% of employers plan to take action to manage benefit costs.

-- About 22% said they would absorb medical benefit costs and 20% would

absorb non-medical benefit costs. Approximately the same percentage

would either shift more/all costs to employees or cut back on medical

employee benefits while slightly fewer would for non-medical benefits.

-- 33% said they would use a combination of the above approaches.

-- Nearly half (45%) of small business employers would offer benefits on a

voluntary basis.

"Facing an economic downturn and a tightened credit market, disposable income is tight for everyone," said Elena Wu, 2nd vice president of Group Marketing and Worksite for Guardian. "Employees will have to make important decisions and tradeoffs around disposable income, but one thing everyone should maximize is benefits through the workplace - they provide immeasurable value during these times. With employers understandably pre-occupied with business concerns, support for helping employees understand their options in order to make sound decisions is more important than ever."

Benefit Enrollment Challenges

The study also revealed that more than half of small business employers who offer employee benefits encounter obstacles during the enrollment process -- both administrative challenges and obstacles with engaging employees in taking advantage of offerings. The most frequently cited are:

Administrative Challenges:

-- Managing paper work and administrative responsibilities (23%)

Challenges with Engaging Employees:

-- Getting employees to submit completed forms on time (23%)

-- Providing clear, easy-to-understand information about options (20%)

"Services that can help small and mid-size business owners successfully navigate the enrollment process exists, but have typically been reserved for larger companies," added Wu. "Guardian is committed to meeting the needs of small to mid-size business owners with effective enrollment services that provide educational support and simplify the "how to" of signing up. In the end, employees get the protection they need and employers reap the advantage of less time administering their plan."

Guardian's enrollment services include:

-- Nationwide team of Benefit Advisors committed to educating employees

about products available to them via face-to-face meetings. (Available

to eligible groups)

-- Customized enrollment kits with everything an employee needs to make an

informed decision -- in one document, personalized with a company's

name and logo.

-- Bilingual enrollment services including Spanish language enrollment

materials and phone support.

-- Toll-free employee benefits hotline where support is available in over

50 languages to answer employees' questions prior to enrolling.

-- 24/7 access to Guardian's online benefits portal, GuardianAnytime,

which includes cost estimators, provider locations, health resources,

and plan information that can relieve the administrative burden for

employers and improve employee understanding and management of their

benefits.

-- Enrollment success plans that are designed to increase employee

participation. Participation requirements are waived and additional

underwriting concessions offered when employers commit to backing

enrollment best practices.

Guardian has also teamed up with Olympic gold medalist, Mia Hamm, to promote the importance of workplace benefits during open enrollment season. Guardian produced an educational video for employees, business owners and benefit decision makers that highlights how workplace benefits can help employees protect themselves and stay healthy. The video features Hamm, a new mom, and provides tips to help employees make the right benefit choices. The video can be viewed at http://www.guardianenrollmenttips.com.

About the Survey

A telephone survey was conducted among a sample of 500 small business executives during the period June 25-July 3, 2008. Respondents included owners and benefit decision makers of companies with fewer than 100 full-time employees. The sample is drawn from infoUSA's Small Business database. The executives were segmented into the following industry categories: manufacturing/construction, transportation and communication, wholesale/retail, financial services and professional services. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

About Guardian

Founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, NY (Guardian) is one of the largest mutual life insurance companies in the United States. As of December 31, 2007, Guardian and its subsidiaries had $41.3 billion in assets (on a consolidated statutory basis). With close to 3,000 financial representatives and 80 agencies nationwide, Guardian and its subsidiaries protect individuals, small business owners, and their employees with life, disability, health, long-term care, critical illness and dental insurance products, and offer 401(k), annuities, and other financial products and trust services. Specializing in the small to mid-size business market, Guardian's Group business unit serves more than 120,000 employers, 6 million employees, and their families. More information about Guardian can be obtained at: http://www.GuardianLife.com.


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SOURCE The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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