What Employers Want From Their Broker

Insurance is changing. And with these changes, Employers are looking to evolve their company’s benefit plans to not only offer the best value available, but also views their employees holistically and sees the need for them to achieve a satisfying work-life harmony. Providing solution based advice for employers can be a valuable benefit should they seek guidance.

Most employers are doing just that. According to insurance giant MetLife’s most recent benefit trends study, at least 81% of employers surveyed say an insurance agent or a broker plays a crucial role when they are developing their benefit plans, and another 75% say a benefits consultant or consulting firm assisted them during their renewal period.

As a guide to benefits advisers, as well as a helpful checklist for employers, MetLife has created a list of 15 areas that employers most often seek advice about from their agents or brokers, along with the percentage that inquiries about those specific benefit areas increased from 2015 to 2016. The areas range from providing global benefit solutions to healthcare reform requirements. The list provides an interesting insight into the changing landscape of employee benefits.

15 Employee Benefit Plan Specifics Companies Most Commonly Seek Advice About

  1. Providing assistance with creating and maintaining an employee benefit handbook: 2015 52% – 2016 62%. Putting together an employee handbook that is comprehensive and informative, yet easy to understand, and keeping it updated as needed, can be a daunting task for any HR department, even those with benefits specialists on staff. An insurance agent or broker can provide valuable guidance about best-practices and effective solutions.
  2. Providing prompt, effective service and answering questions on time: 2015 60% – 2016 68%. Great customer service is one of the keys to a great employee benefit plan. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to spend time on the phone and getting passed around to different departments just to get answers to basic questions about benefits.
  3. Recommending new and innovative benefit solutions: 2015 57% – 2016 65%. This is an important area these days, with so many new solutions coming onto the market, especially for smaller companies with 100 employees or less, towards which a lot of new products are being marketed. New technologies are rapidly changing the way employee benefits are administered.
  4. Recommending cost savings alternatives: 2015 61% – 2016 68%. Everyone is interested in saving money obviously, and an experienced agent or broker can recommend the best values for both employers and employees.
  5. Help with legal, regulatory, and compliance issues: 2015 56% – 2016 64%. With the complexity of the myriad government regulations and new legislation, it doesn’t take much for a company to run afoul of the rules, and incur severe penalties and fines. Professional advice in this area is almost a must.
  6. Providing insights on employee needs and desires for benefits: 2015 53% – 2016 63%. An agent who is experienced in advising on benefit plans for companies in a wide range of industries will be able to help tailor a plan for different types of employees. For instance, companies that hire mostly younger, single people will have different needs than companies that employ mostly older, married individuals.
  7. Reducing the frequency and expense of claims: 2015 56% – 2016 65%. An obvious goal of any employer, there are many ways to achieve it, including employee awareness and educational programs.
  8. Recommending non-medical benefit solutions: 2015 48% – 2016 58%. These are usually preventative programs such as exercise, diet, nutritional, and other health and wellness programs, but also non-traditional medical solutions such chiropractic, massage and aromatherapy, acupuncture, and herbal treatments, among many others.
  9. Advising on employee physical wellbeing strategy: 2015 50% – 2016 60%. This parallels #8 above, but might be considered a more comprehensive, holistic approach encompassing many elements, both physical and mental, leading to total wellbeing.
  10. Advising on employee financial wellbeing strategies: 2015 50% – 2016 60%. Financial stability is actually an important part of a holistic health strategy, as the stress associated with money problems can lead to serious mental and physical illnesses, as well as family issues including divorce and domestic violence.
  11. Creating benefits statements: 2015 52% – 2016 62%. Employees need clear, easy to understand benefits statements on a regular basis throughout the year, at least quarterly, so that they know their exact status. A professional can inform an employer on best practices and technologies for generating these important reports.
  12. Advising on healthcare reform requirements: 2015 57% – 2016 64%. Healthcare reform is one of the biggest political issues of the day, and employers need to keep abreast of changes in legislation that might affect their benefit plans, and what they need to do to stay in compliance with the law.
  13. Providing benefits administration: 2015 54% – 2016 64%. Administering benefit plans can be a huge task for larger companies, an no easy chore for smaller ones either. New technologies and platforms are making the job easier for both, and employers need to be aware of their options.
  14. Recommending product bundling that will meet employee needs: 2015 55% – 2016 64%. There are many products on the market today that can make managing employee benefit plans much easier and more efficient. Finding the right combination for a particular company’s needs requires a professional who is thoroughly familiar with what’s available and the strengths and weaknesses of specific products.
  15. Providing insights regarding benefits trends: 2015 54% – 2016 62%. Like just about everything else, benefits follow trends, and a good, up-to-date plan will take the latest ones into account. An agent or broker will be aware of these and can advise an employer accordingly.

 

Terry and Debbie Denesha have been advising businesses both large and small on their insurance and employee benefits plans for over a decade. Contact us at 661-397-0041 to arrange a consultation and find out how they can help create a plan to meet your company’s unique requirements.

 

 

Five Most Common Open Enrollment Mistakes

A company’s open enrollment period can be a hectic time for management, HR staff, and employees alike. While a successful open enrollment period can increase employee health and satisfaction, an unsuccessful open enrollment period can result in compliance risk and reputational damage.

Learn the five most common open enrollment mistakes and how to avoid them below.

Mistake #1: Not Informing Employees of the Value of the Health Plan

Retention is greatly increased when employees understand the value of their employer-sponsored health plan. To aid this understanding, employers should consider providing their employees with:

  • A well-organized benefits summary which addresses the key features of the health plan; and
  • A total compensation statement which emphasizes that health plan benefits are a form of compensation received by the employee.

Mistake #2: Not Informing Employees of Health Plan Changes

If the employee has not experienced a job or family change, he or she may simply re-enroll in the health plan without giving it a second thought. However, health plan premiums, deductibles, and coverage networks may change each plan year, and the employer may be offering new benefits with unique requirements. As a result, it is important for the employer to inform employees of plan changes. Employers should consider using tools such as benefits summary documents, emails, in-person meetings, and social media posts to help ensure that employees fully understand their health benefits.

Mistake # 3: Not Responding to Employee Questions or Concerns

Some employees may have specific questions about the health plan which go unaddressed, while others may want a benefit that is not part of the current health plan. Employers should be mindful of these concerns and seek to better understand what employees want from their health plan. By using online surveys and other methods to obtain employee feedback during open enrollment, employers can satisfy concerned employees and learn how to enhance their health plan.

Mistake #4: Not Offering Coverage to Dependents

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers with 50 or more full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) may be liable for a penalty of over $3,000 per full-time employee if they do not offer coverage to the dependents of their full-time employees. In addition, the ACA requires all plans that offer dependent coverage to offer coverage to plan enrollees’ adult children until they reach age 26, even if the child is eligible for coverage through his or her own employer. As a result, it is very important for employers to offer dependent coverage and inform employeesof its availability.

Mistake #5: Not Fully Explaining any Tax-Favored Accounts Offered

To take the sting out of high plan deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs borne by employees, many employers have begun offering health savings accounts (HSAs), health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) in conjunction with their health plans. However, the rules governing these tax-favored accounts can be complicated, and violations of their specific participation, contribution, and distribution requirements can lead to tax penalties. Employers should take the time to fully explain any tax-favored account they offer, and remember to emphasize that the employer’s establishment of and contribution to these accounts is yet another part of the employee’s total compensation.