In an era of health care reform, double-digit rising health care costs, and plenty of “unknowns,” many employers view their benefit plans as a challenging blend of cost containment strategies and employee retention.
But perhaps they need to better understand the value of a little caped crusader named voluntary benefits.
Employers of all sizes share common goals when it comes to their benefits. They seek affordable, and quality benefits for their employees.
Some companies achieve these goals by cutting costs and going with a high-deductible, self-funded approach. While many associate self-funding with larger employers, in the current marketplace, it has become a viable option for companies across the board.
Especially when paired with a voluntary benefits offering supported by one-on-one communication or a call center, employers are able to cut costs and offer additional insurance options tailored to their employees’ needs. But there’s more.
Voluntary enrollments can help employers meet many different challenges, all of which tie back to cost-containment, streamlined processes and employee understanding and engagement. But before we explore solutions, let’s first understand why so many employers are going the self-funded route.
For most large and small employers, the costs of providing health care to employees and their families are significant and rising.
For companies who may be tight on money and are seeing their fully-insured premiums increase every year with little justification, self-funding serves as a great solution to keep their medical expenses down.
Self-funding: An overview
Self-funding allows employers to:
Control health plan costs with pre-determined claims funding amounts to a medical plan account, without paying the profit margin of the insurance company.
Protect their plan from catastrophic claims with stop-loss insurance that helps to pay for claims that exceed the amount set by their self-funded plan.
Pay for medical claims the plan actually incurs, not the margin a fully insured plan underwrites into their premium, while protecting the plan with catastrophic loss coverage when large expenses are incurred. Plans may offer to share favorable savings with their employees through programs like premium holidays. These programs allow employee contributions to be waived for a period of time selected by the employer to reward employees for low utilization and adequate funding of their claims accounts and reserves.
Take advantage of current and future year plan management guidance.
Save on plan costs by using predictive analysis for health and wellness offered by the third-party administrator (TPA).
Beyond these advantages,self-funded plans may not be subject to all of the Affordable Care Act regulations as fully-insured plans, which is one of the reasons they provide a solution for controlling costs. Without these requirements, the plans can be tailored much more precisely to meet the needs of a specific employee group.
Boosting value: Advantages of adding voluntary benefits to a self-funded plan
Based on an employer’s specific benefit plan, and what it offers, employers are able to select voluntary benefits that can complement the plan and properly meet employees’ needs without adding extra costs to the plan.
Employees are then able to customize their own, personal benefit options even further based on their unique needs and available voluntary benefits.
This provides employees a myriad of benefits while also allowing them to account for out-of-pocket costs due to high-deductibles or plan changes, as well as provide long-term protection if the product is portable.
Voluntary solutions are about more than the products
Aside from the common falsehood that voluntary benefits are only about adding ‘gap fillers’ to your plan, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that conducting a voluntary benefits enrollment can actually offer a number of services, solutions, and products, many of which may be currently unfamiliar to you.
Finding, and funding, a ben-admin solution
Some carriers offer the added bonus of helping employers install a benefits administration system in return for conducting a one-on-one or mandatory call center voluntary benefits enrollment.
The right benefits administration systems can help remove manual processes and allow HR to do what they do best—focus on employees and improving employee programs. No more headaches around changing coverage, change files to carriers, changing payroll-deductions or premiums.
Finding the benefits administration system that works best for your situation can make a big difference for your HR team.
Communication and engagement
Many employees are frustrated and scared about how changes to the insurance landscape will impact them. And with a recent survey noting that 95 percent of employees need someone to talk to for benefits information,1 they clearly are seeking ongoing communications and resources.
During the enrollment process, some carriers work with enrollment and communications companies who understand the employees’ benefit plan options and help guide them to the offerings that are best for them and their families.
At the same time, employers can enhance the communication and engagement efforts on other important corporate initiatives. For example, a client of ours increased employee participation in their high-deductible health plan (HDHP) via pre-communication.
Of the 90 percent of employees that went to the enrollment, nearly 70 percent said they were either likely or very likely to select the HDHP. Just a little bit of communication can go a long way toward employee understanding.
Providing education and engagement about both benefits and workplace initiatives increases the effectiveness of these programs and contributes to keeping costs down for employers. The more engagement employers generate, the healthier and better protected the employees.
Prioritizing health and wellness
Employers can also use the enrollment time with employees to remind them to get their annual exams. Many voluntary plans offer a wellness benefit (e.g. $50 or $100) to incentivize the employee and dependents.
The ROI for an employer’s health plan provides value as regular screenings can help detect health issues in the beginning stages so that proper health care management can begin and medical spend can be minimized.
Employers have also seized the opportunity of a benefits enrollment to implement a full-scale wellness program at reduced costs by aligning it with a voluntary benefits enrollment.
An effective wellness program will approach employee health from a whole-person view, recognizing its physical, social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions. A properly implemented wellness program can ultimately make healthy actions possible for more of an employee population.
A formidable combination
What employers are seeking is simple — quality benefits and a way to lower costs. With that in mind, offering a self-funded plan with complementary voluntary benefit products and solutions allows employers to take advantage of multiple opportunities while, at the same time, providing more options for their employees.
In today’s constantly changing landscape, self-funded plans paired with voluntary benefits is a formidable combination – a dynamic insurance duo.