For employers, benefits are like romantic partners … you can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them.

No, I didn’t make that up; I’m not that clever. It’s one of the six rules governing today’s benefits market put forward by Dawn Sheue, the president of Summit Insurance Services of Jackson, Wyoming, in the new book, Breaking through the Status Quo: How innovative companies are changing the benefits game to help their employees and boost their bottom line. Sheue memorably maps out a winning game plan for employers using these cleverly posited guidelines.

Elsewhere in the same book, Paula Beersdorf, the president of Sun Risk Manage­ment of St. Petersburg, Fla., notes that there is a workable self-insurance strategy for every employer, and that these need to be considered in lieu of paying exorbitant health insurance premium increases year after year — or stripping benefits away from employees and their families as the only alternative.

Beersdorf’s view is reflected in our cover story (p. 16) this month, in which con­tributing editor Nathan Solheim tells the tale of two middle market employers who, working with Rick Peeples and other advisers from Lockton Companies, success­fully adapted self-funding mechanisms to meet their needs. In each instance, the employer was initially reluctant to self-fund owing to the risks associated with catastrophic claims. And in each instance the Lockton advisers were able to win them over by presenting a more long-term, strategic view of the advantages of self-funding.

Elsewhere in this issue, contributing editor Elizabeth Galentine relates how self-insurance is all the rage among employers in rural Missouri. There, adviser Beth Johnson developed a highly innovative hospital and medical provider network to serve her group captive clients. The resultant savings, as one of them attests, were previously unheard of.

As demonstrated by Sheue, Beersdorf, Peeples and Johnson, the benefits game is indeed changing, and there are almost as many ways for advisers to help clients control costs and add value to their benefits offerings as there are clients. We hope the examples cited in this issue of Employee Benefit Adviser will help you devise your own innovative strategies.

Elliot Kass is editor-at-large for Employee Benefit Adviser

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