When evaluating a benefits administration platform for your agency, there are seven criteria to consider. We've covered the first two in previous columns — the company's background, and whether it offers a benefits-centric or employee-centric approach. The third criteria that brokers should use to compare software vendors is how many ways the platform can manage funding benefits.

How an employer funds benefits is a question that unleashes a large degree of creativity from brokers and their employer clients.

Here are just a few of the options you probably use with your clients: basic employer contributions that vary with each plan and coverage tier, defined contributions, defined contributions but only for ancillary coverages, defined contributions with different buckets of employer money for different sets of benefits, fixed percentage based on the "employee only" tier of a given "base plan," or the ability to roll over employer money towards dependent coverage tiers because the employee chose a plan less expensive than the "base plan."

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