Traditionally, employee benefit plan details have been communicated to employees by way of the employee booklet. The employee booklet imparts the plan details, outlines what is covered by the plan, how much coverage is available, specific coverage definitions, as well as details regarding eligibility, waiting periods and claiming procedures. The booklet is fundamental to this communication.
Traditionally, the booklet has been just that, a paper booklet delivered to plan members once the plan becomes effective or when a new employee joins the plan. Traditionally, when plan changes are made or if an employee loses a booklet, the booklets are replaced by an additional paper copy. Imagine the amount of paper that goes into a system like that.
As we progress as a society, on-line and electronic storage of documents is now pervasive. Books, newspapers and other forms of communication, as well as bank statements and bills have become electronically accessible on computers, tablets and phones. Employee benefits handbooks have also entered the age of the environmentally conscious and technologically aware and are available electronically. Every insurer now offers electronic booklets. There are significant advantages to the electronic version:
- Delivered quickly to new employees or when a plan is new
- Easy to keep track of and easily replaced if accidentally deleted
- Easily accessible to family members and downloadable from anywhere
- Available in real time when needed at the pharmacy, the dentist or other providers
- Easily updated or modified for plan changes or upgrades
- Can be printed off, as necessary
- Saves production and delivery cost (which are passed on in lower rates to clients)
- Saves trees
Most employers now opt for the electronic version, while some do not. The main reasons many don’t are tradition and a perceived lack of sophistication of employees. For example, manual labour employers; employers of older employees; or employers of predominantly immigrant workforces make the assumption that the majority of their employees don’t or can’t take advantage of computers, tablets or smartphones. These are hard perceptions to change however, in our opinion, the vast majority of these employees actually do have access and are able to obtain and reference electronic booklets.
One by one, the insurers are going paperless for booklets, contracts and other documents. Some of the larger carriers have announced that paper booklets are no longer an option. Beginning in June of 2019, ASSOCIUM Benefits will join our environmentally aware peers and partners and will be providing electronic only copies of booklets. However, if there is a client who absolutely needs a paper version, they will be made available for a fee. New plans, updated and replacement booklets will be charged at $4.75 each. This will be added to benefits invoices, accordingly.
Electronic booklets will be forwarded to employers, as well, they will be made available online.
It is our view that the inconvenience, coupled with the cost of paper booklets, outweighs any advantages. While some employees and employers may object to being unable to have paper booklets (they can always print them off themselves), electronic versions are the new tradition.
ASSOCIUM Benefits is a very unique employee group benefits provider, focused on supporting benefits Advisors and their employer clients. We provide Brokers and Plan Sponsors with a range of solutions from traditional group benefits to more customized, cost and tax effective employee compensation. Let’s connect to find out how we can help.