HEALTH CARE

Get an edge by packaging health care with retirement

KEY TAKEAWAYS

    • Health care is complex and expensive, so employers place a premium on knowledge in this space.
    • Benefits consultants and retirement plan professionals make strong allies.
    • A combined “wealth care” package may improve competitive advantage.

    Peanut butter and jelly. Movies and popcorn. Health care and retirement plans. Some things just go together.

     

    While financial professionals have long separated health care and retirement plans in their work, the two live together in employers’ minds as part of a total benefits package. Indeed, the association is so strong – and the combination so compelling – that financial professionals may want to embrace packaging the two.

     

    To do this, consider forming an alliance with benefits consultants. Together, you can present a cohesive “wealth care” solution that strengthens your competitive advantage – and theirs.

     

    Before we delve into details, let’s review the landscape.

    Benefits are overwhelming

     

    Employees are increasingly fatigued and overwhelmed by benefits complexities.
     

    • Of people with employer coverage, 51% say it is difficult to understand at least some aspect of their health insurance, based on a Kaiser Family Foundation survey done in early 2023.*
    • Over half (56%) of employees identify as caregivers, but only 41% can identify caregiving resources offered by their benefits plans, and only 32% take advantage of them according to 2023 Bank of America research.
    • Less than half (49%) of employees took advantage of voluntary benefits, like dental or vision, according to a 2022 survey from Voya.

     

    Education is also lacking. According to a 2023 report from Optavise, only 27% of employees say they received their information from their employer’s HR team.§

    Health care reigns supreme

     

    Employers’ highest value investment, from a pure expenditure perspective, is the employee health care plan. Let’s compare:
     

    • A small retirement plan with 100 participants and $5 million in assets translates to an average of $41,400 annually, or $3,492 a month from the employer, in terms of total plan expenses.
    • For a health plan of the same size, the average cost is $1,071,600 annually, or $89,300 a month. A portion of that may be reimbursed by employee paycheck deferral.

     

    Based on these examples, health care can cost 25 times as much as a 401(k) plan. It makes sense, then, for employers to focus more of their time and HR budget on health care.

    Image shows a scale with “Retirement: $3,450 per month” on the left and “Health care: $89,300 per month” weighted down heavily on the right, with a circle next to it with 25x inside to indicate that health care can cost 25 times more than a 401(k) plan. Source: Capital Group. Source for health care costs derived from Capital Group calculations based on Kaiser Family Foundation, “Employer Health Benefits 2022 Annual Survey,” October 2022.

    Hypothetical examples showing estimated costs for illustrative purposes only. Source for 401(k) plan costs: Capital Group, PlanPremier®-Bundled pricing for a plan with 100 participants, $5 million in assets and Class R-4 shares, excluding one-time startup fees and the effect of annual contributions, as of 12/31/22. The average expense ratio of 0.70% is a hypothetical example calculated with all PlanPremier Class R-4 funded investments and is weighted, based on average daily net assets in the program as of 12/31/2022. Accordingly, more weight is given to funds with more assets. Actual Class R-4 expense ratios, as reported in each fund’s prospectus at the time of publication, range from 0.34% to 2.69%. Expense ratios reflect applicable fee waivers and expense reimbursements, without which expenses would be higher. Expense ratios for certain funds may be estimated. Please see fund prospectuses for details. Actual expense ratios depend on the investments selected for each plan and participant allocations.

    Team up to level up

     

    Because benefits consultants offer extensive health care knowledge, they often have the ear of employers, but they are not competitors to financial professionals who work with retirement plans. Rather, they can be teammates and collaborators.

     

    Both benefits consultants and plan professionals have value to offer one another in what could be a fruitful and symbiotic relationship.
     

    • As a retirement plan professional, you have existing relationships with large organizations that would prove valuable to the benefits counselor. 
    • Benefits counselors have fluency and nuanced knowledge in matters of health care and can include you in conversations that might otherwise happen without you.

    What is wealth care?

     

    By combining the wealth management experience of a retirement plan professional and the health care knowledge of a benefits consultant, you can create an employer-centric total benefits package. That’s wealth care.

     

    As a bundle, wealth care can be greater than the sum of its parts.
     

    • It can make employers’ lives easier with joint meetings and materials.
    • A combined retirement/health benefits plan would be more difficult for competitors to subvert. In order to change solutions, the employer would need to unbundle the solution they have in place with you.
    • A joint value proposition speaks to more of employers’ top concerns at once.

     

    Here are four things you can do to put together a wealth care package.

    1. Align schedules

     

    Save the employer time by scheduling meetings together to work in tandem on a total benefits package. When you coordinate your timelines with a benefits consultant and visit together, you’re able to increase impact by telling a joint story.

     

    Think about employees signing on for a new job. They get to discuss the 401(k) at the same time they make their health plan elections, making their lives easier and the employer’s ability to retain top talent greater. This best practice should happen not only in the onboarding process but also annually or even quarterly.

    2. Co-brand materials

     

    A co-branded pack of resources for the employer and employee is a tangible takeaway you can offer. It can include combined resources, like:
     

    • Biometric screening forms
    • Mail service pharmacy information
    • Financial wellness resources
    • List of preventative services
    • Information on using telemedicine

     

    The joint resource pack can make it easy for the employer to pass along valuable benefits information to workers, which in turn demonstrates their (and your) commitment to employee well-being.

    3. Hone your pitch

     

    You’re used to crafting a value proposition for clients and plan sponsors, but in pitching collaboration with a benefits consultant, you’re speaking to a whole new selling vector.

     

    Your value proposition to a benefits consultant includes:
     

    • Education for the employer and employee
    • Industry connections and client network
    • Market intelligence via similar clients
    • Investment knowledge
    • Partner resources

     

    You can also indicate if you have knowledge in health care matters that affect retirement, like health savings accounts (HSAs) and Medicare.

    HSAS

     

    HSAs can be powerful tax-advantaged investment vehicles, and their adoption rate is rising along with high-deductible health plan (HDHP) enrollment. In a joint discussion, the benefits consultant can refer the investment discussion to you. These may be dollars that you can keep on your side of the benefits/retirement equation.

    MEDICARE

     

    Medicare is a key retirement consideration for many people, but benefits consultants and employers lack incentive to talk about it. Here you can make a difference.

     

    Key topics to cover regarding Medicare include:
     

    • Medicare Part A vs. Part B
    • Medigap
    • Medicare Advantage Plan (“Part C”)
    • Medicare Plan D
    • When HSA assets can be used and when they’re not permitted

    4. Refine your knowledge

     

    To make yourself indispensable in benefits conversations and improve your pitch, take time to brush up on the language of health care and resources that may help participants in unexpected ways.

     

    Explore and bookmark sites like:
     

     

    Regardless of your approach to aligning with benefits consultants, becoming more conversant in issues employers and participants care about will only help increase your value.

    Stronger together

     

    As the benefits environment expands, benefits consultants and aggregators will continue to gain significance. This shift in dynamics can be an incredible opportunity if you embrace these professionals as allies. Together, you have the tools and knowledge to help employers create a cohesive benefits package that cares for employees’ health and wealth. That’s the synergy of wealth care.

    Ryan Tiernan is a senior national accounts manager at Capital Group with 22 years of industry experience as of 12/31/22. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

    Sources:

    Kaiser Family Foundation “KFF Survey of Consumer Experiences with Health Insurance,” June 2023.

     Bank of America, “2023 Workplace Benefits Report: The transforming workplace,” August 2023.

     Voya, “Almost three-quarters of benefit-eligible Americans are more likely to work for an employer offering voluntary benefits, according to new Voya survey,” February 10, 2022.

     

    §Optavise, “2023 Healthcare Literacy Report,” July 2023.

     

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