Enabling Employees to Make Better Benefits Decisions

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Monday, July 11, 2011
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As one of the world's largest private-education providers, Apollo Group's business is based on educating people through a lifetime of learning, to provide them with better career choices. Apollo prides itself on providing innovative educational programs and services to its students. The University of Phoenix, an Apollo subsidiary, was at the forefront of online learning, which helped fuel its growth to become the largest private university in the United States.

Apollo wants to ensure the same philosophy drives the benefits services it provides to its more than 20,000 employees. The company believes that providing more information and educational resources to employees is critical to helping them navigate today's complex healthcare environment. When employees make better benefits choices, that doesn't just help the employees, it helps the company manage the escalating cost of benefits.

In order to provide employees with the tools necessary to help them manage their healthcare coverage, Apollo recognized the need to introduce an Internet-based benefits platform. At the same time, the organization wanted to enhance how it managed its defined-contribution program.

Apollo conducted a thorough review of benefits-administration providers that could provide an integrated delivery platform for its health-and-welfare and retirement programs -- and also deliver on its aggressive implementation timeframe before annual enrollment. In the end, the company selected Aon Hewitt, based on its experience advising Apollo about its benefits programs and also on Aon Hewitt's demonstrated ability to deliver health and retirement services on an integrated administration platform.

"Aon Hewitt brought the robustness of the technology and the depth of experience, both in the benefit-consulting arena and also [in] the delivery of benefit administration to us," says Judy Notaro, director of benefit strategy at Apollo.

Providing Employees with Choice

A critical component of Apollo's new health-and-welfare program was the introduction of a Build Your Own medical-coverage modeler. Apollo's employee population is diverse, and the organization wanted to offer employees more flexibility to select medical coverage that best meets their particular healthcare needs. The Build Your Own service guides employees through the annual enrollment process, providing step-by-step instructions, allowing employees to review options and consider the related costs.

To help employees model the appropriate medical coverage, Apollo also introduced Aon Hewitt's People Like Me application. This gives employees the ability to review sample personas modeled on the demographics of the Apollo employee population. For example, a mother with two young children could review the medical coverage selected by a similar family.

"When you deliver benefits to employees, one size does not fit all," says Notaro. "The Build Your Own option provides choice and allows employees to review options and consider the related costs. If you can have people stop and think about how they use their medical benefits, I think they will make smarter consumer choices."

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And make choices, they did. Apollo employees enrolled using the new self-service tools with an unprecedented 95 percent of them selecting their benefits online.

The Build Your Own modeler had the desired effect, with nine of every 10 employees selecting the more flexible plan option. Providing employees with more choice to meet their particular medical needs not only gives them a more cost-effective plan, it will help Apollo contain its healthcare costs as well. The company expects to save more than $9 million as a result of the new program.

"We want to manage our benefit costs, while still providing our employees with a premier benefit program," says Notaro.

Apollo not only succeeded in improving the participant experience by offering employees a new user-friendly way to become knowledgeable about their benefit programs, but they also made more informed and cost-effective benefit decisions.

"When my employees come to me and say that they had a great experience in enrolling in annual benefits," says Notaro, "that's a win-win situation."


Organization: Apollo Group

Headquarters: Phoenix

Primary Business: Apollo is one of the world's largest private-education providers offering innovative and distinctive educational programs and services both online and on campus at the undergraduate, master and doctoral levels.

Outsourcing/Consulting Challenge: Apollo needed to introduce an online benefits-administration platform, to offer employees more information and resources to help them make better benefits decisions.

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