Employers opting to forgo health care coverage and send employees to the public exchanges are still eager for ways to help their staff manage their health care benefits, says Mark Minner, an adviser with FirstPerson. In response to employer needs, he says, the Indianapolis-based benefits firm is rolling out a unique solution that will allow employers to continue to act as a health benefits resource to employees even if the employer doesn't provide health care coverage.

The solution, MyChoice, combines an adviser’s expertise and service with a technology platform that allows employers of any size to offer insurance and financial products, wellness products and subscription services to employees regardless of whether employees get benefits through the employer or through public exchanges.

As the Affordable Care Act continues to compel change in the health care benefits landscape, benefit advisers and firms are also innovating ways to help employers and individuals.

“You certainly have individual insurance agents that are trying to capture the individual customers; you have advisers that are setting up storefronts to try to get walk-in people,” says Minner. “Our approach is unique in that at its core it’s built around the consultation with the employer, the education and building the right path to make it as meaningful an experience and as simple an experience for employees as possible.”

MyChoice also offers a long-term solution, he says, serving as a year-round resource for employees, not just one-time enrollment assistance.

"In today's changing benefits marketplace, many employers are finding it's better for them and their employees if they reduce or eliminate traditional health benefits offerings," says FirstPerson founder and CEO Bryan Brenner. "While this can be beneficial for employees, it can leave them without a trusted resource for health benefits information and support.”

MyChoice lets employers continue to act as a resource of information and services, he adds.

With MyChoice, employees will have access to a range of plan options, online and mobile access to benefits information and enrollment assistance, and access to a Care Line for ongoing information and support.

The technology platform powering MyChoice will be provided by Maxwell Health.

Employer support

Employees have come to rely on employers for access to information, guidance on benefits decisions and assistance in dealing with insurers and health care providers. While some employers might be happy to abandon this role, Brenner says others will lament the loss of a key component in the employer-employee relationship, and the reduced ability of employers to encourage healthy choices among employees.

"Conscientious employers will want to continue to serve as a connection between their employees and health benefit services and information," Minner said. "People will always be an employer's largest investment, and good employers want to do all they can to help and support that investment.

“There are some people that are trying to create ways to help employers and individuals. You certainly have individual insurance agents that are trying to capture the individual customers; you have advisers that are setting up storefronts to try to get walk-in people. Our approach is unique in that at its core it’s built around the consultation with the employer, the education and building the right path to make it as meaningful an experience and as simple an experience for employees as possible,” says Minner.

MyChoice also offers a long-term solution, serving as a year-round resource for employees, not just one-time enrollment assistance, he adds.

Under MyChoice, employers can:

  • enroll in and manage all health benefits
  • gain access to a private online benefits exchange, including traditional and defined contribution
  • gain access to full market of insurers and plans to maximize savings
  • offer employee support
  • deploy a mobile app
  • reduce paperwork
  • access a dashboard to track employee engagement and spending
  • add payroll (at a small additional cost per month)
  • integrate turnkey wellness programs
  • offload benefits administration and compliance

Maxwell health has been working to finesse a few features, Minner says, but FirstPerson expects to be able to “fully demo the individual solution to employers” toward the end of the first quarter of 2015.
MyChoice can also be used as a resource by employers that do offer employer-sponsored health insurance, or ancillary benefits, Minner says, adding that it can also be a beneficial transition tool for employers planning to drop health care coverage.

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