3 keys to simplifying benefit plans

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It’s no easy task serving as a benefit expert in today’s complex and ever-changing healthcare environment. As a benefit adviser, your clients expect you to have all the answers and the tools needed to help them understand a variety of benefit plans — and then explain it in even simpler terms to employees.

Here are a few key ideas to help benefit advisers keep things simple.

1) Speak the employer’s language. Focus on costs and unspoken benefits. As a seasoned adviser, you know the value of listening to employers, learning about their business and understanding their workforce. This helps you identify a benefit package tailored to your clients’ unique needs. While large-group employers have adept HR specialists on staff, the complexity of offerings can overwhelm just about anyone. It is challenging to explain all the detailed options and various products in simple, easy-to-understand terms.

Your goal is to bring resources to the table to engage employees and meet their needs, while making sure employer costs and administrative responsibilities are managed properly. Clearly outline the costs to the employer. The carriers you work with will send your client a proposal or renewal package, but it’s up to you to walk them through the options, explain and interpret the information, and help them select the best option for their business.

Some plans may include embedded benefits that employers may not entirely understand — and if they don’t understand them, it’s likely their employees don’t know about them either. For example, even seven years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, people still don’t know what preventive services are available at no out-of-pocket cost to members. Or that small-group health plans include coverage for pediatric dental and vision services.

2) Use a variety of tools in your toolbox. The task of helping hundreds — or thousands — of employees understand the complexity of benefits is a challenge.

Many health plans offer convenient, online self-service tools to members that allow them to manage many aspects of care and coverage. This includes seeing accumulator balances, looking up covered services, finding doctors, requesting provider appointments, seeing test results, or even communicating directly with a physician online. They usually offer portals that employers can use to manage their accounts. Steering employers toward selecting health plans that offer these features will eliminate headaches for them (and you).

Many advisers find their clients appreciate seeing the financial impacts and comparison options in a simplified format, such as in illustrations or one-page collateral materials. It’s helpful to invest time into preparing FAQs on topics you know perplex many employers such as compliance, taxes, regulations and any proposed changes to those regulations. Use all the tools available today to help your clients and their employees: flyers, brochures, e-newsletters, blogs, infographics, mobile tools and apps, videos, social media and interactive websites.

3) Focus on your client’s experience. You are responsible for creating, owning and enhancing your brand. Your clients should know that when they turn to you they’ll get the answers they need.

Make it easy for your clients to get to you. All your print and online collateral should include an easy-to-find “contact your representative” section where clients can reach out to you directly with additional questions. It will help establish you as a reliable source and a credible, trusted adviser your clients will turn to year after year.

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And don’t forget the power of face-to-face meetings and phone calls. Schedule a quick coffee or lunch meeting, or pick up the phone and call your clients to see how they’re doing. Talk about new or changing state and federal laws, industry shifts and other relevant topics. They’ll appreciate that you took the time to make a personal touchpoint.

All of this will help make benefits simple — or at least appear that way. Your clients will appreciate the help you provide so they can understand their benefits, properly budget and plan for the future, and aren’t caught off guard by changes. And it will keep them turning to you time and again for benefit advice.

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