Cloud-based benefit management provider Benefitfocus recently launched a program that aims to help benefit advisers deliver software and services to their clients. The Preferred Partner Program and Broker Advisory Council consists of 13 Benefitfocus clients — among them USI Insurance Services and Blue Chip Benefits — that receive certifications, marketing tools and special technology to help their clients simplify their benefits management procedures.

“We are aligned with and partnering with key brokers across the country to help foster a strong relationship in the market and help them to deliver greater value to their customers by leveraging our technology and services,” says Carrie Barth, strategic alliances, program manager at Benefitfocus.

“What we are helping them do is leverage our technology and the data [gathered from our software] to offer a greater level of service to their clients. We also provide dedicated support, market insights and playbooks to help complement their services,” says Barth. For example, partners can take advantage of Benefitfocus microsites to help their clients with their communication strategies, email campaigns and marketing for their upcoming open enrollment.

Benefitfocus also provides certifications on its cloud-based platform through its Benefitfocus University. “They can become certified within our marketplace [in order to] give their customers an additional layer of service,” says Barth.

Members of the program will meet on a quarterly basis to discuss new ideas, offer clients feedback and discuss trends on the employee benefits marketspace. The council met for the first time in late summer in Charleston, South Carolina.

“The goal here is to align with the brokers. We've learned that brokers are really in a complex world today so they are having to make the shift to differentiate themselves. So there's more competitors and more disruptors than before and they need technology to really become a part of the customer experience,” says Barth. “We also are looking at ways to help them drive more revenues to some retail opportunities with like our video programming where they can create microsites for their customers and then leverage our solutions.”

One member of the new Benefitfocus program is Tim Tracy, vice president of Gerard B. Tracy Associates, a brokerage in Fairfield, Connecticut, that serves higher education clients from private universities, and high schools and elementary schools.

“It has been really beneficial to us because that provider program allows us to have preferred pricing that we get to pass along to our clients,” he says. “Instead of going directly to Benefitfocus, we're able to help our clients save on the overall cost through that program.”

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Tracy declined to reveal or estimate what the client savings were but called them “significant.” He adds that pricing Benefitfocus services is on a case-by-case basis and depends on the services that the client signs up for. “It's unique and specific to each client,” he says.

He adds, “We're able to give first-hand experience and explain some of our clients’ pain points with their the solutions that they need … and Benefitfocus is able to help go back and try to create a solution.”

Setting an agenda for the council
Although Barth says the Benefitfocus council meeting will discuss employee benefit and healthcare issues that the industry faces, it has no plans to do any formal lobbying of lawmakers. She predicts that the next in-person get together will focus on the open enrollment for 2018.

“We also leverage the data within our platform and we give that to our local partners who in turn consult with their customers so it will be interesting to see what shifts are made next year,” she says. She adds that the council will discuss conflicting and uncooperative data standards that plague employee benefit advisers, employers and technology providers.

“I think we'll see trends that relate just to overall data movement so as we are looking to help standardize the data movement and transmission in the marketplaces we're looking to standardize. I think that will be a hot topic as we go into 2018."