OREANDA-NEWS. September 28, 2016. As businesses plan for next years open enrollment period, decision makers for employee benefit plans may be surprised to learn that involvement from company leadership plays more of a key role in driving employee medical plan participation than do financial incentives. That according to the 2016 Benefit Analytics and Benchmarking Study (BABS), conducted by Wells Fargo Insurance, part of Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC). Whether establishing a culture of health, demonstrating support of wellness, or narrowing their network of healthcare providers which can save up to 10% of costs for businesses employers who take an active role in plan management can favorably impact the total spend on benefit plans.

The Benefit Analytics and Benchmarking study analyzed more than 1,000 employers nationwide to better understand trends and costs related to employee benefits. It represents current data from 2016 and well over one million employee lives.

Key among the findings was that an employers cash contribution to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) does not impact employee participation in plans with HSAs, an attractive lever for employers looking to reduce benefit costs. In addition, financial incentives did not motivate employees to opt out, or waive, medical plan coverage.

Many of the findings shatter traditional industry narratives that we have been following for the last 10 years, about cash and cash-equivalent incentives with employee benefit plans, said Nick Allen, national practice leader for customer analytics with Wells Fargo Insurances Employee Benefits National Practice. As it turns out, many employees do not view HSA contributions from their employers as an incentive when choosing plans.

Involvement from company leadership plays a key role in driving medical plan participation. Whether establishing a culture of health, demonstrating support of wellness, or narrowing their network of healthcare providers which can save up to 10% of costs for businesses employers who take an active role in plan management can favorably impact the total spend on benefit plans.

Weve seen senior leaders encourage their employees to leave work early to exercise or to attend their annual physical appointment. That type of encouragement from management sends a strong message, not only boosting employee morale, but having a positive financial impact, added Dan Gowen, national practice leader with Wells Fargo Insurances Employee Benefits National Practice.

With healthcare costs expected to continue to rise in 2017, employers are looking for more ways to manage benefit expenses. The study found companies that offer more wellness initiatives, such as walking or biking trails, smoke-free environments and lactation rooms, reported lower medical premiums. However, less than one in five employers has a documented strategic plan in place to address wellness and disease management.

While support from senior leadership is important to increase engagement, only 45 percent of respondents indicated seeing support from their executives. Demonstrations of support include active participation in benefits programs (21 percent), endorsement of benefits plans to their board of directors (16 percent), involvement in employee benefits communications (25 percent) and inclusion of employee health and well-being in organizational goals and value statements (17 percent).

Wells Fargos Employee Benefits National Practice helps customers with financial underwriting and insurance, health and productivity risk management, benefits communication and administration, and compliance with health care reform.

About the 2016 Benefit Analytics and Benchmarking Study

The 2016 Wells Fargo Insurance Benefit Analytics and Benchmarking Study (BABS) is a national study of employee benefits. More than 1,000 employers participated in the study, nationwide. The responses represented well over one million employee lives, across three group size market segments (fewer than 200, 199 999, and over 1,000) and dozens of industry classifications.

About Wells Fargo Insurance

Named one of the top 10 insurance brokers in the U.S. by Business Insurance, Wells Fargo Insurance provides solutions for a wide range of customers, including retail consumers, high net worth individuals, small businesses, as well as middle market and large corporate customers. Wells Fargo Insurance writes or places \\$11 billion of risk premiums annually in property, casualty, benefits, international and personal lines.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with \\$1.9 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,600 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 36 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 268,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 27 on Fortunes 2016 rankings of Americas largest corporations. Wells Fargos vision is to satisfy our customers financial needs and help them succeed financially. Wells Fargo perspectives are also available at Wells Fargo Blogs and Wells Fargo Stories.