Hewitt upgrades client benefits portal for open enrollment season

Enhancements Include More Robust Decision Support Tools, Provider Quality Data and Participant Education Content

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 17, 2004--In a continuing effort to support employees in today's increasingly complex and changing world of health care and retirement benefits, global human resources outsourcing and consulting firm Hewitt Associates (NYSE:HEW) has upgraded its benefits portal in time for open enrollment season. Nearly 18 million people use Hewitt's Your Benefits Resources (YBR) to make their personal and family health care, retirement and other benefit choices.

This year, employees will need to be much more active in selecting their benefits, as their plans have changed and health care and retirement costs have continued to skyrocket. Hewitt has redesigned its YBR portal to more closely mirror the way employees think, anticipating information they will need and offering it through Web tools as needed. Hewitt's portal also introduces tools to help employees better use their benefits throughout the year, rather than only during open enrollment.

"Employees have more skin in the game than ever, so letting last year's benefit choices run on autopilot is no longer an option," noted Christi Rager Wise, customer experience practice leader, Hewitt Associates. "Because employees' share of health care costs is rising and new plan designs require an unprecedented level of choice, employees need to take control, recognize the impact these choices have on their health, their future and their wallets, and actively choose the solutions that work best for them."

To complete the upgrade, Hewitt conducted extensive usability testing and focus group research to determine what would be of greatest value to employers and employees. Major changes include the following:

Health Care Changes

-- Patient Education/Wellness Information--Patient education and wellness information has been upgraded, and a new life event, "Getting the Best Care for Your Condition," will provide personalized information for participants' specific conditions, including access to self-care centers, content on treatment and procedures, facts on prescription drugs and help finding quality care providers. Content consists of the most common medical conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) driving the greatest cost to employers and participants.

-- Provider Cost and Quality Data--Employees will have access to enhanced data on providers, such as the number of procedures performed by hospitals and doctors each year, success and failure rates, incidence of complications, mortality rates, sanctions against physicians, etc., as well as average costs by type of procedure. Employees can also select providers based on ranked priorities.

-- Customized Plan Design--As interest in this new consumer-driven "build your own" option grows, Hewitt has added tools that will help employees analyze and make choices based on their risk tolerance, need for care, prior year's expenses, etc. In addition, they can compare component options and prices with one another and with more traditional plan designs.

-- Medical Expense and Health Care Spending Account Estimators--These tools allow employees to estimate expenses and then link to spending accounts to make contribution elections. This section also contains an explanation of the tax benefits of spending accounts and how they work, as well as information tailored to specific benefit election costs.

"Conservative estimates indicate that 20 percent of employees drive 80 percent of health care costs, yet most benefit portals are designed for a more general population going through enrollment," added Wise. "This version of YBR includes tools and information that specifically address the needs of people with health conditions to help them make better choices at enrollment and throughout the year. The ability to change people's behavior and improve their year-round health care choices is the single most important factor in reducing overall health care costs for both employers and employees."

Retirement Changes

-- Retirement Income Projection--Employees can now project the cost of their retiree medical benefits and factor how much of that cost will be covered by their employer. They can also choose to be automatically informed when they need to contribute more to their retirement in order to have enough money to retire at their current standard of living.

-- Quick Enrollment(TM)--Employees can now enroll in their 401(k) plan using two paths. One path is targeted to beginning investors, who can start saving with a click of a button using default savings and investment options. The other path, for more experienced investors, enables them to shape their own savings strategy in enrollment, if they choose, by opting for an expanded choices path.

-- Contribution Escalation--This new feature allows employees to gradually and automatically increase the amount they contribute to their 401(k) plan over time until they reach their goal.

-- Lifestyle Funds Guidance--Enhanced information guides employees through a process that shows them how to use their 401(k) plan's lifestyle funds as a turnkey solution, and helps them pick the appropriate diversified premixed portfolio for their savings needs.

"Retirement trends such as rising health care costs and the decline of pension programs shift much more responsibility to employees to prepare and save for their retirement," added Wise. "But the reality is that most employees struggle with the retirement savings process. Our enhancements provide employees with information, decision support and automation that enable them--no matter what their investment knowledge level--to take the actions they need to feel more confident about saving for retirement."

While some outsourcers offer provider quality scores, employee education and advice as a buy-up option, Hewitt has chosen to offer these features as part of its core platform, making deep resources available to its clients at no extra charge.

"Employees must become more active benefits consumers, but they can only do so if we, as employers, give them the tools and information to do so," said Larry Becker, Director, Xerox Corporate Benefits. "Robust decision support tools, provider quality data and patient education content are a must-have in all online benefits delivery systems. We chose Hewitt's YBR system because these tools are not only advanced, but are designed to integrate with one another to provide a more holistic experience for the user. Hewitt has also leveraged its domain expertise to design a system that serves the information in a way that tries to mirror how employees think rather than how benefit professionals or academics think."

About Hewitt

Hewitt Associates ( is a global human resources outsourcing and consulting firm. It provides services from offices in 38 countries.

Hewitt Associates
JoAnne Laffey, 847-442-7648
Maurissa Kanter, 847-442-7655 

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