2020 proved to be an unexpectedly tumultuous year for most people, and if you’re involved in running or making decisions for a business, you were probably taking a hard look at every aspect of your business. If reviewing your benefits program did not make the list, January is the perfect time to review your plan.
We don’t just put together a spreadsheet showing the pricing other providers would offer to gain your business. We go far deeper than that superficial approach, as we want to understand a lot more than the bottom line of a quote, and a lot more about your organization’s history, present state and anticipated future. Digging deep into your historical claims experience and pricing is key, plus we want to understand who you are, what you and your team want and need out of your benefits plan, how this compares to what you have, and what can be done to get you there! And of course, a priority is always creating the most cost-effective plan possible, without compromising on quality service, systems and coverage.
With the pandemic still very much a reality, and cost containment still a concern for most people, we wanted to revisit a blog we posted a year ago (before we knew what was coming!) which discusses the key items to consider when assessing the benefits program for your business.
Updated from January 2020
At the start of a new year, we all make resolutions. After the uncertainty of 2020, you may be more motivated than ever to take a closer look at your benefits program.
When it comes to benefits, consider: Is this the year for minor benefits housekeeping or is your company due for a benefits overhaul?
Granted, every year should be the year for benefits housekeeping! That said, here is an outline of a few areas to review on an annual basis, and how to determine if your program requires more significant changes.
Hopefully, this will help you to decide just how much to address this year.
Keep things current
Before the year gets going full-steam, check that all your documents — hard copy and/or digital — are current. Ensure all forms, applications, benefits booklets and other items on file are the up-to-date versions. Toss or delete any old ones.
Next, check that all employee data is up to date. Have your employees confirm personal details, including: their address on file, dependents, a change in single vs. family status, and their named beneficiary. Employees don’t always remember to keep you in the loop!
Access those tools
One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the speed with which our provider partners moved when it came to going digital with systems and services.
If your still employees aren’t using online and mobile applications to manage their benefits, the New Year is a logical time to send out instructions and encourage them to sign up. Some may be slightly less-than-savvy with technology; that’s understandable. But once they see the advantage of these fast, efficient tools, they’ll gladly adapt.
Pay attention to benefits lines where reductions/ terminations may apply
Check for any plan members who may be reaching the age where certain benefit lines may reduce or terminate. You will want to prepare to advise them of this, and ensure your billing accurately reflects the change when the time comes. For example, is anyone turning 65? Despite your best communication efforts, they may have missed that their long term disability coverage will likely be coming to an end.
Changes to laws or rules
Have any laws or rules changed that may impact your program? Are you compliant with any applicable collective bargaining agreements? If you’re even remotely concerned about this, drop everything and address it immediately. An experienced benefits consultant can assist you in understanding the fine print.
Are your benefits accurately described in your employment contracts? Misrepresenting, omitting or including outdated items could become a problem for you in the future, such as in the event of a termination or disability situation. This is something to check every time you make a change to your program.
Plan for your benefits renewal
Lastly, when is the plan’s renewal date? Based on this date, you’ll need to find out and prepare for:
- When the renewal meeting will be held
- What you would like to discuss this year
- When you will receive an update on the claims experience
- Whether you need to pass new rates along to your payroll company; and,
- What other dates are important in the year ahead from a benefits perspective?
Basic administrative housekeeping for a benefits program is essential on a routine basis. But when is it time to take a deeper look at your plan, i.e., take a strategic-perspective view? If any of the following statements ring true, that time might just be now:
You aren’t sure if your benefits plan takes into account your company philosophy with regard to health and wellness. Or, you have not yet developed a company philosophy!
When it comes to the benefits plan, what is your goal as a company? Have you defined a goal? Or are you somewhere between ‘bare minimum’ and ‘comprehensive and effective health and wellness offering’? If you haven’t taken the time to really think about this, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
Your company may not have developed a philosophy and goal. But when it does, your benefits plan, like every other aspect of your organization, should be aligned.
Is your team happy with the program?
You haven’t recently surveyed your staff to assess whether the program is meeting their needs. You’re not really sure whether people are happy with the program, or what they may want to see changed. Or worse, you know they’re not happy!
If you haven’t checked on this lately (or ever!), it’s understandable. Other priorities come up, and another year goes by, with the same plan in place. But a new year is a good time to reassess. Consider surveying staff about whether the benefits program is still meeting their needs. They’ll appreciate the chance to let you know things they’d like changed. Again, this is worthwhile. As you know, a happy team is a team that stays. You want to be the company good people come to, not the one good people leave.
Get ahead of the game
At some point in your organization’s history, someone decided an employee benefits plan should be put in place, and hopefully, they were thoughtful in considering the scope and goals of the program. The question is, how long ago was this done? Has your organization changed, while the plan stayed the same?
When it comes to your plan design, coverage, carrier, or plan structure, you may be surprised to learn your program is totally outdated in certain areas and that change is required to bring you up to speed. This might be as simple as expanding the list of covered paramedical practitioners, or more significant, such as switching carriers to take advantage of innovations that were not available when the plan was first implemented.
The pandemic has brought mental health support programs to the forefront
Another way to think about this is the fact that the world has changed, and your benefits program may need to adapt to our new realities. Unfortunately, a major impact of the pandemic has been a reported decrease in mental well being and overall stress. Employees are seeking support, and today’s benefit programs, if they are to be truly effective, need to offer mental health support services.
What else is out there, in the world of benefits?
It is important to assess whether you are taking advantage of what the market has to offer, and weigh whether the current plan still makes sense. This is especially advisable if your plan hasn’t been thoroughly reviewed for a while by a benefits specialist.
A benefits expert — for the help you need
All this may sound overwhelming. If you don’t know where to begin, a benefits consultant can help. Benefits consultants can help take care of every aspect we’ve mentioned above — and more. We want to ensure as part of our process, we’re answering key questions, such as:
Does the program take into account the challenges of your business, such as high employee turnover or low employee engagement? What’s next for your business and industry? We raise this point because it is important to consider the plan in terms of business growth and structure. It may be time to implement/abolish different classes of benefits, change waiting periods or eligibility criteria, or expand the group saving plan.
Who are you?
What are the areas that particularly affect or matter to your employee demographic? Are there specific health concerns within your employee population? When it comes to wellness, what are you already doing and could you be doing more?
Ultimately, a benefits plan should be dynamic, and provided the proper management and attention essential to ensuring you make the most of every dollar that goes into it.
Your benefits consultant should be a true partner to your organization
At the Immix Group, we always say we consider ourselves to be an extension of your HR department. That’s because we work with you in a meaningful, in-depth and results-oriented way. As benefits consultants, we’re here to help with everything from discussing your benefits philosophy to surveying your team; from analyzing your program to making recommendations and implementing changes.
Our job isn’t to simply process instructions from our clients; it’s to collaborate, bring our expertise to the table, and ultimately, to partner with you in ensuring you make the most of your benefits dollars. With all that 2020 brought, one thing you can do to make your life a bit easier is to engage a qualified benefits consultant. We’d love to hear from you!