Employee Benefits – The Change

Author: Kyle Muscat

Bringing Peace Back to Your Benefit Decisions

The world is changing, this is not new but the change is now a constant.

There were years when society meandered through decades with little to no change, instilling in us, the feeling that what we have come to count on would always be there. We seemed quietly content to wander along with the things that just seemed to work. Then……the digital revolution came, what once took a week to complete, now, perhaps only took one day. Then quicker and quicker the enhancements gushed forth, from a week, to a day, to hours and then to only minutes to communicate an idea.

Technology spawned newer technology and the quiet now becomes a noisy confusion of choices that seems endless. Then 2019-2020 arrived and brought a Pandemic that crushed economies around the world and closed businesses and sent employees home in an unprecedented migration to remote work days. Now everyone is juggling work, personal life, kids and technology at home, asking questions such as, why is the internet so bogged down? Do I use, Zoom, Works, Skype, Facetime. What about my employees, benefits, pension, diversity, inclusion, communication, just another endless supply of questions to add to an already large accumulation of thoughts and initiatives.

Even through all the noise and choices I could not begin to grasp a work from home scenario, throughout this pandemic without the technology that we have come to enjoy. Imagine only a phone and fax machine, things would certainly take longer and bring its own set of problems. It remains that in the cloud of questions and the endless supply of solutions we cannot underestimate the power of change nor ignore it. Change is our new normal, to coin the new cliché, and we must embrace the new technology and set our expectations to consider how they may enhance or improve our day-to-day experiences, personally, for our businesses, and for our sanity.

When it comes to your employees, technology is changing how we communicate with them faster than ever before. Your obligations, as a business owner or manager, to your employees have also become ever more complicated. Smartphone Apps, social media, online enrolment, HRIS systems, HR specialists, labour lawyers, benefit management administration systems, payroll, intranet are all realities in the modern world.

When it comes to benefits they are not exempt from change and there is no shortage of it; We still have traditional insured plans, ASO plans (Self-Insured), Retention programs, but now add an influx of Third-Party Administrators offering unique programs, like HCSA (Healthcare Spending Accounts), Personal Wellness Accounts, Hybrid plans, Flex Benefits, and Pensions and Retirement programs.

Wading through all of the options and deciding what is right for your company and your employees can be an arduous task, and one that can add to your growing pile of complications. Choosing to work with an independent consultant / broker that has invested in the tools to bring efficiencies to your decisions, can help bring peace to your decision by simplifying the process and organizing your choices. Coordinating the technology that is available will certainly simplify your day once implemented and allow your time to be more strategically focused by bringing hours back into your life.

When reviewing your employee benefit program, the process should look something like this,

1. Choose the broker you want to work with

  • In most cases you do not need multiple brokers, choose the best one that you trust will be able meet your objectives.
  • The broker should have relationships with most insurers, several TPA’s,
  • Should have sufficient experience, and benefits and pension should be their main business.
  • Should be able to provide HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems) or at very least be able to manage the process or has invested in the technology.
  • Should offer a benefit administration system independent of the insurance companies so you do not need to learn a new system if you move to another company.
  • Does the broker also manage Pensions or Retirement Income programs?
  • Should provide you with details about how they are compensated.

2. Discovery Process

  • Begin with a fact find, what is important to you as a company and your employee?
  • What is working? Are there benefits you are looking to change? Are there benefits you will maintain at all costs?
  • Employee Survey – How do they feel about the current plan, future plans, cost and value of the program?
  • Benchmark study – Know what peer companies offer for benefits to their employees. They are more than likely competing to attract your employees.
  • Understand the timelines of reviewing and implementing a new program, particularly when you are making a move to a new provider.
  • Funding analysis – What is right for you, traditional insured, ASO or Retention. Hybrid, or combinations including HCSA’s. There are many ways to set up the funding of a benefit plan, be sure you are aware of all the options.
  • Do you need and HRIS system or HR support?
  • Is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) important to you?
  • Would your employees benefit from mental health support?
  • Do you also have a Pension or Retirement Income program? This should be performed as a separate review.
  • Administration details – tax issues for employees & employers, premium sharing details, insurance excess reviews. Employer liabilities – do your HR policies align with the benefit plan contract etc.

3. Data Collection

  • Providing the correct data is key to a successful review and seamless changes.
  • Employee census, plan design summary, copy of booklet, copy of contract with a contract review, copy of most recent invoice.
  • Claims experience summary – Claims versus premium for at least two years. Longer if doing a funding analysis.
  • Understand any large claims data – Are there any employees with very large drug and health claims above the stop/loss attachment point.
  • Are there any employees on disability, if so provide details?
  • Details regarding divisions, subsidiary companies and classes.

4. Review and Analysis / Competitive Market Study

  • This includes a report that details the current plan premium and financial factors against other insurance company options.
  • Compares your plan design with National and regional trends and identifies aps.
  • An experienced consultant should be able to tell you whether your rates are justifiable prior to bringing your program to market.
  • This phase should take 2-3 weeks to finalize depending on the amount of changes being discussed.

5. Implementation of new Program

  • Online enrollment for employees
  • Master paperwork completed with assistance from broker
  • Benefit Admin System activated and training provided to admin person
  • Employee meetings scheduled – Training for online portal and claims submission system and review of plan details. In person or virtual.
  • Delivery of plan materials

6. Management of Program

  • Broker should provide you with a scheduled event list for:
    • Experience reviews
    • Timelines for other initiatives (Pension) employee meetings.
    • Renewal Projection
    • Full renewal review and strategies
  • Contact list – Insurance company and support team.

With any questions, please do not hesitant to reach to FCA’s Director of Benefits, Todd Elson.

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