Managing employee benefits in the post-Affordable Care Act world can be a complex endeavor. Whereas brokers used to recommend to their clients two or three plans they felt best covered their employees’ requirements, today employees can select plans that better suits their individual needs. However, all those benefit choices — each with their own subtle differences — can be potential minefields of confusion and aggravation.

Most people have little understanding of the nuances of health insurance. So while there may be a perfect plan out there for them, it may be difficult for them to find it. That can lead to a lot of employee dissatisfaction, whether it’s a huge out-of-pocket expense for an emergency department visit, discovering after the fact that a particular doctor’s visit wasn’t covered, or some other costly issue.

Joe Donlan

Also see:6 reasons employers hate renewals (and what to do about it).

Helping employees make the right choice from among dozens of options is one of the most important services brokers can offer. That’s where technology can again create a huge competitive advantage — the kind that keeps accounts happy and secure.

1) Quoting
Take health plan quoting, for example. For many brokers, small group quoting traditionally is a tedious and time-consuming process. And, with many employers looking to shop for the most affordable benefits among many different carriers at each renewal period, more brokers are seeking technology to not only automate and scale the quoting part of their business, but also make it easier for their clients’ employees to shop for, enroll in and manage personalized benefits coverage.

Robust, multi-payer quoting tools provide brokers with an easy way to generate multiple, targeted quotes for group insurance and receive a finished proposal within minutes. Brokers also can automate the quoting process across health products, presenting benefit information for easy client analysis in print, by e-mail or in person.

2) Consumer choice
In addition, the technology should help lead employees to an informed decision based on specific personalization factors, such as age, family status, health history, risk tolerance, etc. It should also take a holistic look at the employee’s situation and make recommendations for additional “fill in the gap” ancillary products where appropriate.

For example, if the employee selects a high deductible health plan to keep premium costs down, the technology should automatically recommend accident and/or catastrophic illness coverage to guard against an unforeseen event that could bring financial ruin. If the employee already wears glasses, or works in a job where eye strain is common, the technology can recommend adding vision care. A life event such as a wedding or birth might prompt a recommendation for life insurance.

By offering benefits technology that helps employees make not just a choice but the best choice for their individual situations, and their families, you can add immeasurable value for both employers and employees. After all, happy, healthy employees make for a stable and productive employee base.

3) Automation
Of course, technology needs to do more than help the enrollment decision process. It must also make it easier for employees to manage their benefits throughout the year. It should be able to answer most questions so employees can manage the bulk of their benefits themselves (perhaps through a knowledge center or even an avatar function), supplemented by call center support for a particularly complex issue. Helpful tools such as assistance with searching for the lowest-cost option for prescription medications, or even approved money-saving therapeutics, win employee praise while making you a more integral part of your clients’ benefits strategy.

The key is to make all these tools and technologies as easy to use as possible. Consumer expectations for information availability, ease of use and service have been set by their experiences with online retailers, telecom carriers, technology manufacturers and others. If the technology you offer doesn’t match that experience it will quickly be dismissed.

By offering the right technology you can help your clients do a better job of delivering benefits to their employees, and help the employees find the health plan and other benefits that suit them best. You can also help them take full advantage of the benefits they do select, creating greater satisfaction and goodwill between employers and their employees.

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