With renewal season nearly upon us, brokers are beginning to build out plan options for their clients. This time of year usually results in frustration for agency staff and customers, as the traditional renewal process does not focus on customer experience or operational efficiency. Historically, the broker used a static spreadsheet to show the client several plan options with different benefi­ts, including the total cost of each plan. Once the employer decides on a plan, the broker may help them decide on a contribution strategy to make the plan ­fit in their budget; other times, the employer has to ­figure out how to pay for the plan themselves.

The problem with this way of handling bene­fits renewals is that it doesn’t focus on what really matters to employers. Total plan cost isn’t the number that employers really care about. They are concerned with the amount that they actually pay; however, the typical plan renewal process doesn’t integrate premium share into the initial plan discussion. Fi­rst, the employer chooses a plan, then premium share is discussed. If the cost is higher than the employer was hoping to pay, the employer is forced to either pass off those extra costs to employees or eat the extra costs themselves. Alternatively, it opens up another round of discussions with the broker to look at additional options to lower costs, leading to more meetings, more revisions to the already confusing spreadsheet of benefit plan options, and a long, drawn-out process.

This facet of benefi­ts planning is a major reason employers ­find the process so cumbersome and frustrating. It is the one area where they can’t budget ahead of time, which is detrimental for employers of all sizes. But there is a different way of approaching the renewal conversation, one preferred by employers. It begins with the employer’s budget in mind, then focuses on various plan options that ­fit within that predetermined number. And it is supported by technology that simplifies the conversations and eliminates wasted hours back and forth.

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