Is Your Employee Benefits Program Leaking Oil?

Employee benefits programs are not created equally. In fact, they can often be poorly designed and result in less than stellar outcomes. So how do you know if your employee benefits program is functioning to its best ability? We’re here to help.

A well designed benefits plan is not just about cost. Our expertise focuses on the foundational (compliance) and operational aspects from the plan sponsor’s perspective,” explains Bob DePriest.

Check out the factors below to discover if your program is all it can be or if it’s leaking oil.

Low employee morale

Now more than ever, employees are becoming disengaged at work. And for most, benefits are a huge part of that dissatisfaction. Studies show that employees who feel their rewards or benefits meet their needs are seven times more likely to be engaged with work compared to employees who don’t feel that way. Employee absence and disengagement can cost your company a significant amount of money. Just imagine seven times the productivity based on your employee benefits program. If you are unsure about employee morale, simply ask them. (Here are some tips to get you started.)

Poor broker/advisor relationship

Do you see your broker only at renewal and open enrollment? Does your broker provide support with plan compliance, contribution strategies and integrated plan design? How about proactive strategies to help you mitigate your current cost inflators? Do you only get quotes and more quotes from your broker? If so, you probably have a poor broker relationship and an even worse employee benefits strategy. Rather than accepting things as they have been for years, research the best brokers and strategies available. This will help you choose the best benefits partner for your company and employees—as well as allow you to create the best benefits program possible.

HR team know-how

HR teams weren’t designed to be a benefits source of knowledge, but that’s become a crucial part of their roles. Does your HR team have the necessary knowledge and resources to act as a plan sponsor? If not, it could be a sign that your benefits program isn’t functioning as well as it could. Find out which tools and resources are available to your team, how well informed and educated employees are about their benefits decisions and if compliance is consistently met. If you need help with these things, find a partner, like us, to help you deploy the tools, guidance and resources needed to develop a compliant, well-communicated and high-value benefits program.

Well designed program

Benefits aren’t what they were 20 years ago. Things have changed drastically thanks to Millenials and Gen Z entering the workforce. They expect different benefits, including voluntary options. In fact, 69% of Gen Z employees said flexible hours are a valued employee benefit, along with free healthcare (23%) and the option to work remotely (18%). Great benefits programs have to evolve with the changing workforce, and that means having a well-designed plan. Ensuring healthcare duplication doesn’t occur and consistently meeting compliance regulations are also parts of building a great plan that attracts and retains the best talent.

So, is your employee benefits program leaking oil? At Select Choice Benefits, we’ve made it our mission to ensure every program is built with employees and their employers in mind. We take the complexity out of benefits decisions. Are you ready to get started? We are, too. Contact us to start building your competitive benefits program.

Why are Captive Arrangements Captivating to Plan Sponsors?

Many people ask me about captive insurance arrangements, albeit, single employer or group captive models. Captive insurance arrangements seem to be one of the hot topics in the industry. And, businesses are interested in anything that may help control of escalating medical costs. After all, for employers it’s generally their second or third largest budgetary item.

What are captives? They are an independent insurance company established and owned by at least one non-insurance company to assume the benefits risks of the captive owner (or owners). This arrangement allows the members to benefit from the ownership of an insurance company. They do this by leveraging law of large numbers by pooling members together to purchase stop loss insurance and reduce their administrative costs. The premise being for the small employer something they would not otherwise be able to do on their own.

Why are they captivating? They allow small employers to control and build a strategy to manage their group medical plan costs.

With risk there is reward. captive arrangements allow employers to benefit from a good claims year. And, that means the potential of a refund at year end.

In my experience, I have found that the captive arrangement is diligent about maintaining costs and providing a “hands-on” approach in terms of claims management.

There is no magic bullet in terms of healthcare costs. However, captive insurance arrangements may be a viable way for the small employer to fund their group medical plan. They are not for everyone; employers must do a careful examination of the captive arrangement and their risk tolerances.

To learn more about captive arrangements, contact Select Choice Benefits today!

Do You Know What Your Employees are Thinking?

In today’s environment, it’s hard to maintain competitive benefits while also staying cost-effective and meeting the expectations of your employees. Add in the uncertainty of the healthcare reform and the need to consistently meet compliance standards, and that task goes from hard to exceptionally difficult.

One way to fill the gaps in your coverage strategy and meet your employees’ expectations is through voluntary benefits, non-traditional, add-on products or services used to supplement a benefits package. But before you can choose the right benefits for your company, you have to know what your employees are looking for.

We hear it all the time. “I know what my employees want, and they are happy with what they’ve got.” While that may be true in some instances, employee turnover rates say a different thing. The average annual rate of separation in 2018 was 44.3 percent, according to the United States Department of Labor, and this rate has been steadily increasing since 2009. Employees are looking for more out of their jobs and benefits packages than ever before.

Asking the right questions

So, how do you discover what your employees want? It’s pretty simple. Just ask. Use an online service like SurveyMonkey or TypeForm to send out an anonymous survey. This will help you uncover what your employees are really thinking so you can make data-driven decisions on your benefits strategy. Remember, during this stage, you aren’t making promises about boosting benefits, but rather offering an opportunity for your employees to be heard and truly listening to what they have to say.

Here are a few questions you can include in your survey:  

  • Are you happy with your benefits package?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with your current benefits package?
  • How could your benefits package be improved?
  • Would you be open to voluntary benefits, like financial wellness tools or identity theft protection?
  • Are there benefits or perks you want but don’t currently have?

Analyzing the answers

Once you have the answers from the survey, take some time to comb through them. Pull out the most relevant information, and consider which voluntary benefits best fit their desires. Once you’ve done that, consider what your employees can actually afford. Voluntary benefits are 100% employee-paid, which is great for employers but can be taxing on employees. In fact, research shows that employees only pay for three voluntary benefits at a time. So keep that in mind when choosing the right voluntary benefits for your strategy.

Need help deciding? We’ve got you covered. Contact us to learn more about your options.

Are Voluntary Benefits in Your Strategy?

Voluntary benefits. You’ve probably heard the words before from a broker or agent. They’ve become one of the hottest trends in the benefits world, and it’s not surprising why. Not only do voluntary benefits support employees in non-traditional ways, but they also allow employers to offer a more robust package in a cost-effective way.

“Voluntary benefits aren’t just a hot trend right now. They have become a crucial part of the benefits conversation and for good reason. Every business should consider including them in their benefits package,” said Steve Vermaak, President and CEO of Select Choice Benefits.

What are voluntary benefits?

Voluntary benefits are non-traditional, add-on products that supplement a standard benefits package. Most businesses already offer medical, dental and vision coverage, along with some well-known voluntary benefits like life insurance. But voluntary benefits are on the rise with options that range from financial wellness programs to identity theft protection.

Why are voluntary benefits important?

Voluntary benefits are 100% employee-paid. For both fully insured and self-insured clients, voluntary options are a cost-effective way to fill any coverage gaps and meet employee expectations. In fact, today’s workforce is more likely to choose perks like supplemental benefits over a higher salary. Offering a broader variety of non-traditional benefits attracts the best talent on the market, supports employee satisfaction and helps employees balance work and life.

How do I choose the right voluntary benefits?

With five generations of employees in the workforce today, choosing the right voluntary benefits for your company (and maintaining compliance) can be difficult. The value of voluntary benefits strongly relies on your company’s specific workforce and its needs. Take some time to discover what your employees want most from their benefits package. Send out a survey to discover what your employees are really thinking. These methods will help you build a package to satisfy your current workforce and attract talent in the future.

Another element to consider when building a voluntary benefits package is duplication. Work with your benefits broker or agent to ensure your voluntary benefits are adding to your benefits package rather than duplicating the coverage you already have.

Ultimately, voluntary benefits are a cost-effective way to show your employees you care about them. Are you ready to add voluntary benefits to your company’s strategy? We can help you choose the right benefits, ensure compliance is accurately met and make every step of the process simple. Contact us today to get started.

How to Know When It’s Time to Change Your Benefits Broker

For most companies, choosing and administering benefits is more than a little overwhelming. That’s why they usually turn to a broker for assistance. Benefits brokers or advisors can help make the insurance benefits process easier for everyone, and often, employer and broker/advisor relationships last for years. But when was the last time you evaluated the service you’re getting from your broker/advisor? Are they supporting your HR professionals the way they should? Do they support your organizational goals?

Renewal time is a constant thought with its inherent pressure. Add that to a long list of time-sensitive tasks, and finding a new broker/advisor isn’t always a number one priority for employers. However, it’s important to recognize the signs that call for a change in your benefits advisor. We’ve listed a few below to get you started.

1. They don’t help with compliance.

A foundational aspect of any well designed Health & Welfare plan is compliance. Regulatory compliance relating to health plans is complicated, and navigating compliance can be tricky. That’s where your broker/advisor should help. As a true partner, your broker/ advisor ensures your business and your employees are protected. If your broker isn’t helping ease the burden of administering insurance as well as ensuring all compliance needs are consistently met, it’s time to find a new one.

2. They’re only there for claims calls.

Support means more than help with claims calls. Your broker should be available to help with everything from problems to questions to innovative tools. And that support should be year-round, not just when it comes time to renew. You (and your employees) deserve the best support possible, and that’s what a good benefits broker provides.

3. They aren’t helping you find enrollment tools.

Technology has changed significantly over the last decade, especially in the benefits world. Employers now have access to tools that can help with the enrollment process—from ensuring employees understand their benefits options to allowing them to compare plans and even keeping them up-to-date throughout the year. If your current broker isn’t keeping you updated on the new technology available, it is time to reconsider your partnership.

4. They aren’t presenting new voluntary benefits options.

In today’s world, employees aren’t satisfied with the status quo of yesterday. Health, dental, vision and 401K plans aren’t enough to keep the best talent at your company. It’s important to address the needs of a changing workforce, and integrate voluntary programs to complement current group medical offerings. Doing this will enhance the employee experience and help you retain the best talent.

Ready to rethink your broker/advisor relationship? We’re here to help.  Contact us to discover how we can support your company.

Help for the Fully-Insured Employer

When it comes to benefits, things can get more than a little confusing. From choosing the best plans to navigating the industry lingo to maintaining compliance and even finding the right technology, we understand that the process can be overwhelming at times. That’s why we do everything possible to take the complexity out of benefits. In fact, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you, the fully-insured employer, choose the right options for your business, your employees and yourself.

Change your insurance strategy

Insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all, so why should you go with the status quo? Instead, try changing your insurance strategy by customizing it to fit your needs. One option is choosing a level-funded plan, an insurance plan that combines the savings and personalization of a self-insured plan with the stability of a fully-insured plan. In fact, those who choose a level-funded plan and have fewer claims at the end of the year could be eligible for up to a 50 percent rebate. For most businesses, that’s a major benefit.

Use an enrollment system

Enrollment time is stressful, to say the least. Every employee is choosing the best options for them and their families, and HR managers often struggle to keep up—especially when they are doing everything manually. Utilize all that technology has to offer and upgrade to a benefits enrollment system. This will allow employees to compare plans, make informed choices and stay updated throughout the year. Plus, employers have all the information they need in one location.

Customize with voluntary benefits

With Millennials and Gen Z-ers taking over the workforce, employers have to distinguish themselves to attract the best talent, and that starts with the benefits they offer. Voluntary benefits, like student loan assistance, discount purchase programs, pet insurance or personal financial planning, aren’t just nice to have; they are expected by incoming employees. Add voluntary benefits that make the most sense for your business and employees to your insurance strategy.

Choose a partner you can trust

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do this alone. A great benefits partner will guide you through the process, offering innovative solutions to make your job (and your employees’ lives) easier. Your benefits partner should keep you up-to-date on emerging trends, useful tools and resources, must-have voluntary benefits and more. So you can attract and retain the best of today’s workforce without stressing over the details.

Want to learn more about taking the complexity out of benefits? Contact us! We’re here to help you.

Association Health Plans- Big Deal… or Not?

The Trump administration made access and implementation of Association Health Plans (AHPs) easier by signing an Executive Order in October of 2017. This essentially allows widespread access for small businesses and self-employed workers to band (pool) together to buy insurance that, in doing so, would lower small business healthcare costs.

Would scaling back restrictions on AHPs attract healthy people out of the ACA markets, thus leaving the unhealthy causing increasing rates? What level of coverage would AHPs provide? Potentially not the same level of coverage as the regulated by the ACA.

AHPs have been around for years. They are in structure what is called a Multiple Employer Welfare Association (MEWA). I sold MEWAs back in the 1980s when I was with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Ohio.

MEWAs allow small employers to essentially band together to create larger insurance pools of employees to take advantage of the “law of large numbers” for risk stability and in theory reduced administrative costs. The premise is by forming the association- the premium costs should be lower than if each entity tried to get insurance on their own.

When President Trump signed the Executive Order he essentially ordered the Department of Labor (DOL) to loosen restrictions on these types of MEWAs. The order exempts association health plans from ACA regulations requiring basis essential health coverage and “loosens” the rules in terms of who can form an AHP. Among other things, it would allow employers to band together across state lines. It would allow sole proprietors to form together instead of being forced to buy insurance through the ACA exchanges.

This new ruling requires employers to understand the important details before entering into such an agreement. There must be distinct contrast between single plan AHPs and private health insurance arrangements. The proposed rule requires AHPs to satisfy the following conditions:

  • The group or association exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, for sponsoring a group health plan that it offers to its employer members;
  • The group or association has a formal organizational structure with a governing body and has by laws or other similar indications of formality;
  • The group or association’s member employers control its functions and activities, including the establishment and maintenance of the group health plan, either directly or through the regular election of directors, officers or similar representatives: and
  • Only employees and former employees of the employer members (and family members of those employees and former employees) may participate in the group health plan sponsored by the association.

The proposed ruling would also require AHPs to comply with the pre-existing condition and nondiscrimination mandates already set forth in the ACA. In other words, AHPs could not restrict membership based on health factors nor could the association health plan require an employer or its employees to pay different premiums based on the member’s health.

Here’s why it’s not such a big deal…

The EO was a thoughtful attempt to allow for a broader access of coverage by bolstering options available in the small market. Carriers are very leery about how this expansion may impact their risk in an already highly regulated ACA market, where among other things that are held to keep claim cost and administrative costs in line the medical loss ratios (MLRs).

It’s important to note forming an AHP is serious business. When absent, compliance with the aforementioned ACA compliance requirements and any binding documents, AHPs must have a way to consistently maintain and grow their base to ensure stability in the pool and reduce adverse selection.

In other words, in my experience, I have seen more AHPs implode upon their own weight that have been successful. The main reason is that healthy risk finds more cost effective plans leaving a less than desirable pool.

For these reasons, fundamentally nothing has changed from a risk bearing perspective since 1980s for the insurance carriers. Actually, the EO may have provided less incentive for insurance companies to embrace the new Executive Order.

In the end, the move was well intended….just not a big deal.

To learn more about AHPs, contact Select Choice Benefits today.

By Bob DePriest, CHC, RHU, REBC

In the Community: Popsicles in the Park

Check out our own Bob DePriest and his fellow Marietta Kiwanis members (Dan Buyers, Dan Cummings and Scott Chadwick) at the Emily Lembeck Early Learning Center Inaugural Meet & Greet event.

“Proud to be affiliated with the Marietta Kiwanis to help launch the Emily Lembeck Early Learning Center last Friday with the ‘Popsicles in the Park’ event. Had such a great time meeting and reading to all the four year old future leaders of our community,” says Bob.

Meet President/CEO Steve Vermaak

Native South African, Steve Vermaak, has been fortunate to experience a life full of memorable life-forming events.  Serving in the South African Army, he saw firsthand the struggle of human plight in Southern Africa. Motivated by his respect for the justice system, he enrolled at the University of Pretoria and completed his law degree. His interest in civic duty and faith led him on a four-year missionary sabbatical serving communities throughout South Africa. Before his move to the United States Steve’s business acumen expanded into the telecommunication and information security sectors. 

Moving to the United States in 2002 with his family, Steve decided to enter the insurance industry and joined one of the country’s premiere voluntary work-site organizations. While there he built a business enterprise consisting of over 50 accounts in a short four-year period. Promoted into a leadership position, he spent an additional three years achieving similar success leading a team of sales professionals based on industry best practices. Both Steve and his associates were consistently recognized for their outstanding contributions in building sustained business partnerships. He attributes his success to a consultative approach with his clients that promote clear objectives and a transparent understanding leading to a mutually beneficial alliance. 

As a result of continued growth, Steve founded Select Choice Benefits in 2012.  He brings that same guiding principal to SCB that has been foundational to his success complemented with his client centric philosophy. Today, Select Choice Benefits provides guidance and support to clients in the small, medium and large employer size category in both the public and private risk sector. SCB also supports agents, helping them implement effective enrollment and operational strategies with their clients.  

Association Health Plans and Their Potential Impact in the Small Business Market

Association Health Plans and Their Potential Impact in the Small Business Market

Francis Perkins Department of Labor building, Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC


Last October President Trump signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies to assuage ERISA rules redefining Association Health Plans (AHPs), expanding short term limited duration (STLD) policy time frames and promoting additional individual market options through enhancing Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs).

For purposes of this article I will focus on the AHPs and their potential impact in the small business market as defined by employers with less the 50 full time equivalents (FTEs).

Association health plans have been in existence for many years. I sold and implemented AHPs in the 1980s. These plans are defined by their own set of rules governed by the Department of Labor (DOL). A bona fide association qualifies as an “employer” for ERISA purposes. As such, the AHP is considered a single health plan.

The DOL has strict rules defining the parameters of an association succinctly codified into two tests that must be met for an association to be considered an “employer”.

  • Employer members of the association must share a common interest
  • Employers must exercise control over the association

Three contributing factors driving interest:

  1. The final ruling relaxes these requirements, specifically in the area of common interest, making it easier to establish AHPs. For example, employers participating in the AHP will share commonality of interest if in the same trade, line of business or profession.
  2. The pricing dynamic in the small employer market. Many small businesses have stopped offering group sponsored plans due to cost and access. Theoretically, they now will have access to nationwide programs offering them a range of coverage and cost options.
  3. The individual market is drying up in terms less choices for individual consumers by geography. The reintroduction of AHPs with their more lenient rules should be a welcomed addition for small business owners and sole proprietors who have secured coverage in this market for reasons mentioned above.

Potential impact on small business programs

Let’s assume that AHPs can mitigate the cost per unit of healthcare – and they won’t. Let’s assume that they can reduce the carriers administrative cost based on volume – maybe, with a marginal effect since the administrative cost pales in comparison to the cost of claims. Let’s assume AHPs can offer a level of benefits that are commensurate with their theoretical efficiencies of volume – not likely since pre-existing medical conditions will still be covered. Let’s also assume these arrangements will help reduce the increased utilization trends that we’ve seen in the modern healthcare system – not a chance.

However, the most illuminating value is the potential access to additional local, regional and national programs not otherwise offered to small businesses. If, and a big “if”, we see carrier adoption. Remember carriers are dealing with a host of other regulatory issues and it remains to be seen if they will be reinvigorated by the new AHPs guidelines.


I applaud the administration in its intent to help small business gain access to a better selection of healthcare options; however, until we deliver and practice effective methods to reduce the supply side cost of healthcare economics, small employers will continue to manage their group health insurance programs as they do today-year by year. Because access simply isn’t enough.

Bob DePriest is Vice President of Employee Benefits for Select Choice Benefits in Atlanta, GA.

Feel free to reach out to Bob with your comments.