I have found that over the years technology can be quite helpful when enrolling new groups. It is helpful for all involved the broker, employer, employees and group administrators. One of the main reasons is that when you are having employees use online platforms, you can avoid typical paper errors.
Typical paper errors most often include missing information. Insurance carriers don’t just want certain employee information, but need certain information. Software is usually designed to not allow employees to move forward without filling out required information.
Other “paper” errors occur out of non-legible writing. Although most of us can read our own handwriting to others our penmanship can look like chicken scratch.
There is always some hesitation from groups who have always used paper enrollments in the past, but after our first round of online enrollments the groups are much happier with the end results. Many administrators or human resource professionals do not give their older employees enough credit. For the most part, every employee will have internet access, email addresses, and basic computer skills. The only one of these required when an employee is doing an online enrollment on their own is the basic computer skills.
But, even those who have zero computer skills should not worry. Your broker should bring in their team of enrollers to help every employee walk through the enrollment process. The enrollment process typically only takes 5-10 minutes depending on the plan designs and the employee’s decision making capabilities.
Once the enrollment is complete the employees will now have online and mobile access to all their selected plans which should include their ID numbers, virtual cards, summary of benefits, etc. The broker should also make sure employees receive physical cards and booklets, this stuff is still appreciated by the old-school employees.
Occasionally, groups do a complete 180 from no-tech to high-tech. I would suggest a slower approach. Maybe start with online enrollments and then gradually add other tech pieces. For example, some groups move over to 100% online resources. Groups will submit proposals online and have very little interaction with their broker. When issues occur calling an 800 number or searching an FAQ page can be a real pain. Even 24 hour chat or message boards can get frustrating. I find that most plan administrators want and need to speak to their broker directly. Someone who knows everything there is to know about the specifics of their clients without needing a refresher from the employer.
It is nice to use the best of both worlds. Use the technology side for your insurance benefits to make information more accessible, and enrollments easier. Use the human broker to help your group out with any billing issues, client specific problems, or when a new quote is needed.
Tech Bonus Items
Not all programs offer more than online enrollments, but some do. Check with your broker to find out what extras are included in their software program. For example, we offer at no-charge a ton of online HR resources like help with employee on-boarding. With our system, if employers choose to use this feature, new employees will register to the platform we build for the employer. Once logged in the employee will be prompted to complete their W-4, I-9, etc. The system will allow HR or the employer to upload employee handbooks, employment contracts, and other documents. We will even customize each document to pdf format, and add-in any required e-signatures or e-initials. Employees can upload any certificates, training hours, ID’s, etc. if needed or wanted.
Additionally, employers can use our platform to send out surveys, memos, enrollment reminders, etc.
Still Debating the Switch
From my experience, employers do not like to rock the boat or change the status quo. Of all the changes an organization can make, upgrading their medical benefits technology should be very easy and modest. “Should” is the key-word. Make sure your broker has experience in making switch. A lot of brokers are also stuck in their ways and do not want to accept these changes to enhanced technology as the new norm. What they need to remember is that upgrading their benefits platform will reduce the number of common mistakes, and will create more time for the broker to find out what is truly most important for to their clients. 9 times out of 10 employers want their broker to be more accessible and respond to inquiries quicker.
Now, I bit the bullet and pay for all these services for my clients. Not all brokers and firms will do this and many times try to pass off the costs to the employers/clients. What these brokers are failing to see is that the investment in their clients will allow them to be more accessible and more responsive. These will in-turn create a better, longer lasting relationship and may even create referral opportunities.
Bijan Noori is the Principal of Baypoint Insurance Services based in Long Beach, CA. Bijan provides insurance benefit plans for groups ranging from 2 to 500 employees.