Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Is it Time for an Off-Cycle Voluntary Benefits Enrollment? A Win-Win-Win Opportunity!

The 2013 - 2014 Benefits Enrollment Period has been confusing for Employers and Employees because of the PPACA/Obamacare Disruptive Changes as well as the Myopic Focus on Health Plans by media!  

An "Off-Cycle" Enrollment can provide a platform for providing clarity and solutions to potential problems, risks, and losses! It can be well worth the time! 

This 2nd Enrollment Period Can Create a Win - Win - Win Opportunity! Who Wins?

1) Employees - Gain informed/empowered access to the Plans & Services being offered by the Employer and Providers to better protect themselves and their Families as well as meeting specific needs. They gain a Greater Return on Invested Benefits Dollars!
2) Employers - Inform and empower Employees to make better benefit decisions about the choices of benefits being offered. Employees fill in gaps and holes in the their selected Health Plans. Morale and productivity can potentially increase! They gain a Greater Return on Invested Benefits Dollars!
3) Brokers and Advisors - While accomplishing the above as the Trusted Advisor, the off-cycle enrollment presents an opportunity to better explain the Employee's Health Plan choices and offer Employees Voluntary Plans and Services that generate premiums and income while helping retain existing Plans! They gain a Greater Return on Tiome and Efforts!

The ProblemAccording to the 2012 Open Enrollment Survey of the Aflac WorkForces Report - "More than half (56 percent) of employees throughout the U.S. estimate they waste up to $750 annually because of mistakes made with benefits elections".   The article continued - 
"'Common Mistakes' The survey found that many Americans are on auto pilot when it comes to the benefits selection process and are unaware of all their options. [Note -- Confusion during the 2013 - 2014 Enrollment Period increased the potential for waste!] Among their most common mistakes:
• 89 percent of employees simply elect the same benefits options every year.
• 61 percent are only sometimes or not at all aware of changes to their policies each year.
• Only 16 percent were confident that they contributed the right amount to flexible spending accounts..." 
A Little History - The utilization of an "Off-Cycle" Enrollment is not new!  Employee Benefit Advisor's Karen Lee wrote in June 2005, "While it is by no means common, marketers report that they are conducting more off-cycle, or off-anniversary, enrollments for plan years starting July 1, as well as typical annual enrollment for Jan.1 plan years. Typically, they conduct fall enrollments for 'core' benefits - which lately have included health insurance and not much else - and an additional enrollment several months later for voluntary benefits".

The article continued, "Two enrollments, worksite marketers claim, cut down on the confusion for employees who already are reeling from the cost-shifting to which employers are forced to resort in order to handle exponential increases. 'People go to open enrollment, and there is so much chaos that many times, they walk away and don't remember what they did,' explains R. Hunter Whittington, president of Whittington Benefit Services, who notes that he does off-cycle enrollments for about 30% of his clients. 'If we come back with data [about the benefits], we can explain the selections they made.'"

Suggestions for the Off-Cycle Enrollment

1) Notify the Employees in advance about the 2nd Enrollment period, why the enrollment is taking place, and provide them information about the additional choices of Plans and Services they will have an opportunity to select. Explain the Enrollment Process, ie. Group Meetings, One-on-One, Call Center, Internet Based, etc.
2) Be prepared to explain the Choice of Health Plans the Employees made in the first enrollment including the coverage, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.
3) Offer Voluntary Plans that can potential fill in gaps-and-holes in their Health Plan selections. Many Voluntary Benefit Carriers have recently created Plans specific to addressing PPACA/Obamacare compliant plans - as well as for Individual - non-group based plans. If Employees are on a Public Exchange metallic plan they will be facing gaps and holes!  
4) Introduce new Voluntary Benefit Choices to better meet the diverse needs of Employees. In the past many Employers working with Brokers offered a very limited selection of Voluntary Benefit choices. Carrier/Providers are now offering many more Voluntary Benefit Plans that were included in the Employer's plans in the past as well as Plans and Services to meet specific needs of Employees and their Families! These include: 

     • Dental   • Vision   • Short & Long Term Disability   
     • Accident   • Life Insurance    • Critical Illness   
     • Limited Benefit "Indemnity"   • Hospital Income    
     • Legal Plans   • Identity Theft Plans   • Pet Insurance
     • Product Purchasing Plans  • As well as Tax-Advantaged        Reimbursement  Accounts - Health/Medical FSAs, 
       Dependent Care, and Commuter/Transportation
A BenefitsPro article in 2013 by Katie Kuehner Hebert stated - "According to MetLife’s 2013 Study of Employee Benefits Trends, '58 percent of employers say providing voluntary benefits is a significant benefits strategy — up significantly in 2012 from 32 percent in 2010. Nearly half of employers who currently offer voluntary benefits say they are likely to increase the number of products they will offer in the next two years. Moreover, 51 percent of employees report they are willing to bear more of their benefits costs in order to have a choice of products that meet their needs, according to Metlife’s study. 'We continue to see increased interest from employers of all sizes in adding voluntary benefits to their overall benefit programs,' says MetLife’s Michael Fradkin, senior vice president, voluntary and worksite benefits in Bridgewater, N.J. 'That’s supported by feedback from employees about wanting additional choice and the opportunity to tailor their own personal benefit program to their needs.' Fradkin and other experts detail which voluntary benefits products are likely to be hot commodities — and which products are emerging — in 2014:

In the past several years the number of Carriers and Plans/Servcies available within the Voluntary/Worksite Benefits arena have increased dramatically to to meet demand. If you have questions about plans or, please feel free to contact BPTradeShow --   

5)  Shift away from traditional Payroll Deduction Slots that are a hassle for personnel and HR to a new Payroll Direct Deposit (PDD) Service. Except for a one time administrative move there is no more payroll administration, Escrowing, reconciliations, etc. Employees are put in charge of their own destinies and do not need to work-out individual pay systems with carriers when they leave an Employer or retire! For Brokers and Carrier/Providers, retention increases and paperwork decreases! For more information about PDD --  visit - or Email 

This is the time to schedule the Off-Cycle Enrollment! Employees want and need clarity and choice. Given additional changes that  PPACA/Obamacare will deliver for the next full enrollment, this an opportunity to prepare Employees while delivering them peace-of-mind!
For additional discussions about the above and other topics related to the Insurance and Benefits Industries, I invite you to join our Linkedin Group, Insurance Forum To Join -- Go To - 
Have a Question - Email - or Call Phil - 216.577.5579  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Brokers & Advisors -- 3 Strategies and Solutions for Meeting the Needs of Employer Groups – Old & New – in 2014!

Retaining and Attracting Clients - In 2014 and Beyond the key to retaining and attracting Employer Groups will be offering turn-key, cost-saving, compliant Strategies and Solutions that exceed expectations and assist you in generating income!

Note - With PPACA/Obamacare/Reform and many other disruptive changes within the Insurance Industries, providing Employers and Employees – as well as Associations, Unions, Banks, Credit Unions etc. - with viable choices has become more difficult and time consuming for Brokers/Trusted Advisors! Here are some tested opportunities!

The following are 3 Strategies and Solutions for meeting Employer needs to assist in retaining your current Clients and in expanding your markets – No Gimmicks utilizing Quality Providers:
  1. Self-Funding – We have a unique, simple, one-of-a-kind opportunity with a Magnicare Lloyds associated group that is compliant for PPACA defined “Large Employers”! Some industries that are taking advantage of this opportunity include: Construction, Agriculture, Hospitality, Restaurants, Manufacturing, Nursing Homes, Home Health Care, Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) /Staffing Companies, Security Companies, Convenient Stores and more. Click on Request More Information!
  2. Defined Contribution (DC) While recently there have been numerous DC discussions in conjunction with Private Exchanges, DC is also a stand-alone opportunity to assist Employers in containing and budgeting cost while providing expanded choices for Employees! Your role with DC is to assist the Management/CFO in budgeting their contribution to the Employee's Benefits by classification without discrimination and help the Management/HR select the menu of Benefit Choices – everything becomes a Voluntary Benefit! Learn More About DC!
  3. Payroll Direct Deposit (PDD) - The Alternative to the Hassle and Time/Cost of Providing Payroll Deduction Slots and Administration! Having worked with Brokers and Employers for many years to implement Voluntary Plans and “Tax Advantaged” opportunities like HSAs, FSAs, Dependent Care, etc., one Employer Objection stood out - and it was justified! The hassle and administrative cost of providing the required Payroll Deduction slots! In the past you and the Employer had no, or very limited, choices! Groups like Associations, Unions, Part-Time Employees, etc. that had no access to payroll deduction were often excluded as potential Clients for Voluntary Plans! That has changed! Now there is a new, efficient, cost-effective Solution! It's call Payroll Direct Deposit (PDD)! Find-out more about the stand-out leader in providing PDD!
If you're not offering these strategies and solutions together or separately, you may be leaving potential Clients behind and/or losing Clients to competitors! The above are both Simple and Turn-Key to assist you in moving forward!

For more information about the above opportunities, Contact Phil – Email or Call 216.577.5579 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quote for the Day – The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power. Mary Pickford (Her Birthday)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Payroll Deduction -- Now There's A Solution To The Hassle - Making Voluntary Plans and Services More Accessible!

Voluntary Benefits and Payroll Deduction - Over a period of thirty years working with Voluntary/Worksite Benefits, most of our experiences with Brokers and Employers have been positive and rewarding - Employees appreciated "Choice"! When discussing these plans and their almost flawless upside, there was always one downside - the necessity of Payroll Deduction! The paperwork has been an added burden for the Employers!

The Developing Marketplace - In the past several years, the number of Carrier/Providers - as well as types of insurance and non-insurance based Plans, Programs, and Services -  have increased dramatically.The utilization of Section 125 (pre-taxing) and Reimbursement Accounts has also been increasing.  Each new selection by an Employee - or change in status - creates new work for Owners/HR Departments in managing payroll.

In Recent Years - In part due to PPACA/Obamacare - Defined Contribution (DC) plan designs and the utilization of Private Exchanges have grown in popularity! With these opportunities the Employer's responsibility for accurate and timely payroll deductions have increased exponentially!

The time and cost of administering payroll deduction for Voluntary Benefits and new Plan Designs have deterred many Employers from making the Employee choices and designs available. Employers and Organizations have sighted the following concerns:

• Smaller Employers wanted to offer Voluntary Plans but did not want the hassle!
• Employers of all sizes were reluctant to offer multiple Carrier/Providers - as well as additional Plans - given the added work!
• The Defined Contribution plan designs that assist in budgeting the cost of Employee Benefits are soaring in popularity but have imposed greater stress to Payroll Administration.
• The new Private Exchanges seem to offer a viable opportunity but will generate more demand for payroll deductions.
• Associations, Credit Unions, Unions, Banks, etc. often wanted to offer the Plans, Programs, and Services to their constituencies but had no access to deducting from the Individual's paychecks!

A Solution - Our recent research uncovered a new methodology for eliminating the time, cost,
and hassle of Payroll Deduction while opening the door wide-open to offering Voluntary Plans, Program, and Services! New technology allows for Premium Direct Deposit (PDD). Quite simply, this is a secure, virtual bank account that belongs to the Employee from which the Premiums and Costs of Plans, Programs, and Services are paid directly to the Carriers.

To quote an article in the March edition Employee Benefit Advisor titled, The death of payroll deduction - " Instead of the employer reconciling the monthly list bill, deducting premiums each pay period and eventually sending those funds monthly to the carrier, PDD requires just a one-time setup by the employer for each employee buying WVB [Voluntary Worksite Benefits]".

It also should be noted that PDD is not a form of consolidated billing where all of the Employee's deductions are deposited in a single account. With PDD each Employee - or Individual Participant - has an individual FDIC-insured bank account created for the purpose of paying for Voluntary Plans, Programs, and/or Services.  All additions and changes are made directly by the Employee/Individual!

 Can You Imagine - The Employees or Organization Members can be directly tied to the Carrier/Providers without HR/Payroll caught in the middle! Some of the advantages:

• No more Payroll Slots
• No more Benefits Administration
• No more Bill Reconciliation
• No more File Feeds
• No more Renewals/Conversions
• And Many More Advantages

PDD offers Employers tremendous efficiency as well as time/cost savings with a measurable ROI! At the same time many new markets and doors are open for Carrier/Providers, Brokers and Consultants! Employers and Individuals can be provided more choices and control! It's a Win/Win/Win!

To date we have isolated one Company offering a patented, affordable PDD service. Click - For More Information or Call 216.577.5579. We welcome your input on other PDD providers!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Quote for the Day – I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating. “Boss” Tweed (His Birthday)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Self-Funded (Self-Insured) Health Plans - The Brokers and Employers Saving Grace?

Brokers and Employers Surviving "Disruptive Changes" -  In several of our recent articles, discussions and blogs we have been investigating methodologies to help Brokers and Employers survive the "Disruptive Changes" foist upon the U.S. Employee Benefits Marketplace in the past several years - mainly by PPACA/Obamacare.

Here's another - Brokers and Employers need to gain a thorough knowledge of Self-Funding (Self-Insuring), Stop-Loss Coverage, and the role of TPAs. The Broker - working with other advisors - needs to become the "Trusted Advisor" for the Employers and their Employees! 

Self-Funded Benefit Plans are a Risk Management Method in which calculated amounts of money are set aside to compensate for potential future claims (losses). A Self-Funded Health Plan is one in which the Employer assumes part or all of the risk for providing health care benefits to his Employees. The March 2014 issue of Rough Notes in an article titled "MEDICAL STOP LOSS" by Michael Moody notes "Self-funding employee benefits over time has become one of the most cost effective approaches to providing for employee health benefits".

With a self-funded plan the Employer takes control of the assets of his plan, invests to the organization's advantage, and eliminates the traditional Insurance Company's premiums and fees. When considering a self-funded plan the following should be taken into consideration:
          1). Self-funded plans are subject to Federal Regulations rather than State Regulations giving the Employer greater control over and flexibility with the plan.
          2). Using Brokers, Agents, and/or Consultants the Employer can design a plan, or set of plans, similar to a Traditional Fully-Funded Plan.
          3). If well communicated to the Employees, the Employer will be seen as the Benefit Provider creating an improved connection between the Employer and the Employees.
          4). With the Self-Funded Plan the Employer only pays benefits based on his Employee's histories and/or claims experience.
          5). The Employer retains control of his plan reserves maximizing interest income.
          6). The Employer does not pay state premium taxes - usually ranging from 2% to 3% of the monthly insurance premium.
          7) The impact of PPACA/Obamacare on self-funded plans has been minimal leaving the Employers with tremendous control and flexibility!

Stop Loss Coverage - In order to limit the potential risk (liabilities) to the Employer this element of Insurance is introduced. Most Employers purchase Stop-Loss Coverage (also called Excess Coverage) to minimize the impact of any large, catastrophic claims or excessive utilization by the Employees. The Rough Notes article mentioned above goes on to note "Most self-funded programs consider the acquisition of a well-designed stop loss program as a critical element to a successful , long-term operation". There are two main types of Stop-Loss Coverage:
           1). Aggregate Coverage - Insures against high claims incurred by the group as a whole above a certain dollar limit chosen by the Employer and agreed upon by the insurance carrier.
           2). Specific Coverage - Insures against a single catastrophic claim by an individual Employee that exceeds a dollar amount chosen by the Employer and agreed upon by the Insurance Carrier.

Choice of Plan Design - As with Traditional Health Insurance, the Employer has a choice of plans - including Tax-Advantaged Health plans like HSAs and HRAs. In addition, the Employer can include deductibles, co-pays,etc. as with Traditional Plans. Generally, the Group Medical Plan is the main focus of a Self-Funded Program. Other health related benefits are often included, such as dental, vision, prescription drugs, and short-term disability. Generally high risk, low frequency coverages, such as long-term disability; accidental death and dismemberment and life insurance are not included in the self-funded plan design.

Limiting Risk - An additional technique for substantially reducing risk and inherent claims (losses) is to implement a Wellness Plans and Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs). More and more statistical information is being generated by studies to show the ROI for implementing and maintaining these plans.

Administration of the Self-Funded Plan by Third Party Administrators (TPAs) - The Plan Administration is generally performed by a TPA. These organizations are specialists in claims management, compliance issues, and other day-to-day management functions inherent in self-funding. The TPA works with the Employer, Broker and Insurers/Carriers of Stop-Loss Coverage to design a plan to meet the needs of the Employer and Employees - on a near and longer term basis.

The Design, Implementation, and Management of a Self-Funded Plan requires the input and integration of Brokers/Consultants, TPAs, and Carriers combined with a well-planned  and implemented Employee Education, Communication and Enrollment Process.

For more information about what Brokers and Employers require to gain a thorough knowledge of Self-Funding, Stop-Loss Coverage, and the role of TPAs in the marketplace Email - or Call - 216.577.5579!.


BenefitPlace hopes you will use this forum to respond to posted comments and share your ideas, questions and expertise related to the overall Employee Benefits and Individual insurance marketplace. Thanks for joining us!