In the beginning stages of my sales career in the benefits industry, I would stumble in meetings, trying to figure out what to say. It took a couple years, but I found my stride and what I came to realize was that prospects weren’t looking to be spoke at, instead the key was that they were looking to be listened to.
So, I started to ask questions, because it seemed that every new client opportunity led me to a situation where the client wasn’t being heard, or worse yet, they weren’t even being asked.
The main question that has led me to getting the answers I need in order to take care of my clients is: “Are you getting a return on your investment?”
More times than not, this question leads to a wrinkled brow and some silence (which I have learned is super important….let there be silence) and then the response…”My investment?”
The answer to the puzzling question is, if employers were to put the same amount of money they are spending on monthly benefit premiums into a high interest savings account, they would expect a return on their investment; with an employee benefits plan, the premium they are paying should come with some “return” where the employers are seeing something of value out of the benefit plan they are paying for.
If an employee benefits plan does not come with the following three components, a third-party audit is likely necessary;
The Engaged Advisor
To obtain an employee benefits policy, an employer must seek the assistance of an insurance brokerage.
Within a brokerage, a benefits advisor should be in charge of your plan and a policyholder should expect the following:
- The decision makers of the company know who the benefits advisor is
- The benefits advisor has touch points throughout the year to contact the plan administrator
- Usage of health & dental coverage is reported to the plan administrator if it is over 75% to keep on top of high claiming, and in preparation for the annual renewal to ensure rate increases do not come as a surprise
- The annual renewal is reviewed in detail either in person (preferred) or over the phone
- Should renewal increases come in high, the benefits advisor prepares the renewal with plan design change recommendations that do not affect the integrity of the plan, but lowers the risk of another unpleasant renewal
Built In Value-Added Products
It is becoming the new norm for benefit policies to come with value added products built in to the policy. If an employee benefit plan does not have these it is a good idea for the policyholder to ask their broker and if possible, amend the plan to bring it up to date with the insurance companies’ standard products. The following are some examples of value-added products to consider;
- Reasonable and customary eye exams (older policies will have capped charges)
- Emergency travel coverage of minimum of 60 days (older policies will have 30 days)
- Wellness programs that come with an online component that includes a health assessment, prescription drug information, activity trackers, wellness challenges, etc.
- Employee assistance programs (EAP)
- Human Resources administration and management assistance either on its own or as part of the EAP program
- Mobile App for claiming and ease of access to the plan members benefits cards
- Access to a preferred pharmacy network (PPN)
A Dedicated Service Department
All too often when I am meeting with prospective clients I hear grievances related to the administration and employee engagement of their employee benefits plan. The biggest factor is usually the plan administrator and members either have no idea who to get in contact with, or there is not a direct line or email to get in contact with someone at the insurance company. A plan administrator should have access to a direct service rep at the insurance company. In most cases, the following should be the expectation upon set up of new business and review at each renewal;
- Direct contact information for the sole agent at the insurance brokerage
- Direct contact information for the customer service representative (preferred) or department at the insuring benefits company
- A general administrative inquiries mailbox and/or phone number for plan administrative assistance
- Contact information for claims inquiries and submissions that includes direct phone numbers and emails
These are just some of examples of components standardly included in new employee benefits policies. For advisors in group benefits, it is no secret that the industry is slow to change. Change does not have to come with the latest and greatest technology.
More important is being listened to and having advisors that are willing to ask the right, and sometimes hard, questions. That way, policies can build value for both the policyholder and the employees who benefit from the policy.
My challenge is to find employers that are willing to stray away from their current expectations and treat their employee benefits plan for what it is – an investment that demands a return.