By Janet Schmidt and Kent Mattson, Ameritas
Every day, human resource (HR) professionals face a world with many challenging responsibilities that often are overwhelming. One of these areas is the oversight and administration of employee benefit programs. HR strives to provide benefits that help employees with their health care protection needs and educational programs to keep them healthy, both physically and financially.
HR professionals have many benefit issues on their minds, including how to:
- Offer complementary benefits packages that help them recruit and retain quality employees
- Educate employees on the value of their benefits and changes in those plans and remind them of preventive care options available with their health and wellness plans
- Proactively encourage employees and family members to participate in wellness programs and focus on healthy behaviors to enhance the quality of their lives
There are many choices for insurance benefits, and often it is not easy to find the right mix for employees because of varying demographics. The complexity of the process is simplified when HR professionals work with trustworthy producers and insurance carriers. The following six secrets provide direction for evaluating potential partners, reviewing benefit proposals and improving communication of benefits.
1. Partner Focus – Producers and insurance carrier sales representatives should be considered an extension of the HR office, where the focus is on serving people – being helpful and accommodating and understanding employees’ needs from their point of view. HR professionals should be confident their partners will be professional and excellent representatives of their organizations.
A great partnership should be a win-win-win for all parties. The producer and insurance carrier should have a consulting orientation. The focus should not be on selling a product or service but on knowing the dynamics of your organization and determining how best to meet your needs. They should understand changes in the benefit marketplace and the impact on your organization, benefit strategy and goals. And they should be willing to be accountable to pre-established standards for successful benefit plan implementation.
2. Partner Characteristics – There are many producers and insurance carriers, so it is easy to think they are all the same. But they can be distinctly different. These questions will help identify the differences in your evaluation:
- What is their tradition and reputation in the marketplace?
- What products do they offer? Which ones would add value to your overall benefit program?
- If they have a strong relationship with a consultant or producer you work with, what is their evaluation?
- How will your account be supported? Is there a dedicated account representative for your business? For some employers, this is an important requirement to ensure timely, effective support and understanding of your needs.
3. Peruse Proposals – Benefit experts recommend that employers should compare employee benefits plans against options in the marketplace every three to five years. When reviewing proposals, it is tempting to quickly scan the features and go straight to the price. While cost is important, benefits are more about the quality of the plan and service provided than just the price. Evaluate the proposal details by listing the key components in a spreadsheet format and rank each, making it easy to visualize the plans that will meet needs of the employee group.
4. Critique Qualifications – It is valuable to work with partners who possess an in-depth knowledge of the industry, trends and what is on the horizon. When evaluating potential partners, consider these qualifications:
- Research – Has the producer or carrier representative researched your business? Are they offering solutions to help you compete in the marketplace for talent?
- Solutions – Is the producer or carrier offering new ideas and solutions that best address your benefit needs, both current and future, rather than merely focusing on features and benefits you already offer?
- Knowledge – Do they understand the benefit metrics and regulatory issues you face? What new insights are they offering to enhance education and understanding, such as wellness and health education programs?
- Network – What is the network size or penetration in your work locations? Is it large enough to meet your needs but still provide appropriate discounts? What is the carrier’s persistency with network providers?
- Reputation – What is the level of satisfaction of individuals currently served by the carrier, especially in the areas of claims processing and customer service?
- Pricing – We all enjoy a bargain, but be cautious when benefit proposals feature a great rate. At renewal time that price can increase, sometimes significantly.
5. Disruption and communication – The effect of plan disruption on participants is one of the key factors to keep in mind when making any changes in employee benefits. When you switch health carriers and/or benefit plans, you may be changing networks, prescription drug vendors, drug formularies and mail order prescription processes.
When making changes to benefit plans, be transparent to the participants by thoroughly explaining the changes. Provide the rationale for the changes and new opportunities with any enhancements. Use several communication options to reach employees and their family members.
6. Result-oriented wellness programs – There is an abundance of ideas and opportunities for wellness programming. Many companies are shifting from rewarding employees for participation to encouraging positive health or behavior changes. Producers and insurance representatives should be knowledgeable about the opportunities available and support the employer’s needs, whether it be through benchmark information on trends, data analytics and reporting, education opportunities, including website or mobile applications, disease management and related health and wellness programs.
Take Advantage of Excellent Partners
HR professionals deal with many complex and challenging issues each day. They can be more effective in managing the benefits program by adopting these six secrets of benefit partnership relationships. By working with a team of trustworthy producers and carrier representatives, HR will appreciate the insightful ideas, solutions and comparative analysis on benefit programs they provide. And their perspectives on industry and national trends also will be valuable in evaluating the benefit options that best meet the needs of employees and their families.
Janet Schmidt is senior vice president and director of human resources, and Kent Mattson is vice president of human resources, for Ameritas Life Insurance Corp., with headquarters in Lincoln, Neb. Contact them at: Janet.Schmidt@ameritas.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Ameritas Group, our focus is on designing dental, vision and hearing care products and services to fit the needs of employers, employees and individuals. As a division of Ameritas Life Insurance Corp., we have served customers since 1959, and currently work with nearly 100,000 employer groups, insuring or administering benefits for more than 5.4 million people nationwide. Ameritas has one of the largest PPO dental networks in the country with more than 235,000 access points. We excel in customer service and earned BenchmarkPortal’s prestigious Center of Excellence certification for 2011, awarded for the fifth consecutive year, and placed fourth in its Top 100 contest.