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.