Technology tools continue to emerge that aid employers with streamlining HR and benefit processes. These tools, one expert says, can also be utilized by advisers, many of whom use them strategically in different ways.
Technologies now exist that help employers choose an affordable medical plan, track plan enrollment and even project how an employer’s benefit plan could change in the future, according to a recent blog series by the HR technology solutions provider Benefitfocus.
Jeff Oldham, vice president of the Benefitstore at Benefitfocus says advisers can utilize these same technologies and programs when working with their clients.
“Advisers typically use these programs in one of three ways,” he says. “There are advisers who work as benefit consultants, evaluating the market on behalf of the employers and from there making suggestions. Secondarily, there are certain advisers that find the value between technology and their consulting services. The third group of advisers, focus on the carrier market working with enrollment data, billing, premiums and things of that nature.”
From an enrollment and communication perspective, advisers can help clients build what’s known as their Enterprise Resource Planning, Oldham says. ERP is business process management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back office functions related to technology, services and human resources.
“Because this is not a cloud-based platform, a lot of work goes into maintaining programs like ERP,” Oldham says. “The most popular, efficient and cost effective way for brokers to assist their clients is to use some type of cloud-based service or platform, so they can manage a multitude of different clients in one sitting.”
For advisers in the secondary role who act as mediators between benefits technology and consulting services, Oldham says brokers and advisers have a potential to take their relationship with their clients further by managing and projecting their clients’ benefit programs for them.
Brokers and advisers also have the potential to assist in the reporting and analysis of an employer’s staff and who within the business is enrolling in the benefit programs.
“[The Benefitfocus] platform is all real time, so for example during an open enrollment time frame an adviser will be able to see trends literally as they are coming in, almost like a telethon,” Oldham says. "Brokers and advisers would be able to see how many people have logged in to an HMO versus a PPO verses a CDHP and would be able to compare them year after year when open enrollment comes around again.”
Quote"Brokers and advisers would be able to see how many people have logged in to an HMO versus a PPO verses a CDHP and would be able to compare them year after year when open enrollment comes around again.”
Oldham went on to say that often times advisers and brokers, when working with their clients have a specific goals in mind, such as increasing HSA participation or increasing CDHP adoptions.
Finally, plan modeling and forecasting can be done by an adviser for their client by running a multitude of different reports, using claims data. For example, to take a look at medical and pharmacy data. This data can track trends that are occurring and advisers can identify, with the employer, the most common types of conditions that are driving cost.
From that data, advisers and clients can forecast what trends will look like, should it continue, at the end of the year, or if the client would like to make plan design changes based on the claims data they have received.
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