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Investment education for employees is the top priority for benefit professionals next year, according to a new survey.
The second-most-urgent priority of employee benefit professionals for 1998 is to refine and improve managed care programs, according to the survey of 354 members of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists.
The ISCEBS is a non-profit educational association whose members have earned the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. The survey was released last week in conjunction with the 16th Annual ISCEBS Employee Benefits Symposium in New Orleans.
"For the past 10 to 15 years, managed care issues have dominated the attention of the employees and the benefits professionals that serve them," said Dick Kleinert, a partner with Deloitte & Touche L.L.P.'s employee benefit group. "These new results, however, reveal that retirement planning is starting to demand more attention from the perspectives of both employees and benefits specialists due to the tidal wave of baby boomers soon approaching retirement age."
The results show that benefit professionals are becoming more interested in investment communication and education as the workforce ages, said James D. Davidson, president of the ISCEBS.
The next three priorities benefits professionals cited, in decreasing order of prevalence, were: monitoring and responding to health care reform legislation; emphasizing and improving the quality of employee benefit communication materials; and evaluating and implementing Internet applications.
The survey shows some regional differences in priorities.
For example, benefit professionals in the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest ranked developing and providing investment education as their highest priority for the coming year.
Benefit professionals in the Southwest, though, said their highest priority for 1998 is refining and improving managed care programs. Benefit professionals in the Northwest said monitoring and responding to health care reform legislation is their highest priority. And benefit professionals in the West said their priority for next year is evaluating and implementing the Internet and Internet applications.
Benefit professionals seem to have different interests based on which segment of the provider market they are in.
For example, plan sponsors ranked developing and providing investment education as their highest priority, while bank or trust company professionals that provide services to plan sponsors ranked addressing compliance issues as their highest priority. Benefit consultants and insurers were most interested in refining and improving managed care programs next year.
Complimentary copies of "Employee Benefit Priorities for 1998" are available from Nicole Schmidt, Deloitte & Touche L.L.P., 1000 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1500, Los Angeles, Calif., 90017; 888-361-9960.