Educating Employees on Voluntary Benefits

by Jim Kinney, Principal, Digital Benefit Advisors 

Offering voluntary benefits is a great way to enhance your benefits package, differentiate from competitors, and increase employee satisfaction—all with little impact on your budget. While employers may choose to offer numerous types of voluntary benefits that can deliver convenience and value for employees, many employees do not understand the advantages of these voluntary benefit options, or are unclear how they work. Educate your employees on the advantages of these voluntary benefits so that you both reap the rewards. Continue reading

Consumer Pharmaceutical Marketing and Skyrocketing Employer Health Care Costs

By Emma Tuohy, Market Analyst, Digital Benefit Advisors Hartford

The last time you watched TV, how many times did you see a commercial from a pharmaceutical company? Perhaps you’ve seen an advertisement for Humira, Harvoni, Tecfidera or one of the many other specialty medications. You know what I’m talking about – the commercials that seem to air so often that you are able to memorize the script, along with the laundry list of side effects, like your favorite song on the radio. What consumers rarely think about is the impact that these advertised specialty medications can have on a company’s budget and employee benefit plan offerings. And believe me – the effects are huge.

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The Millennials are Here! Is Your Benefit Package Savvy Enough?

By Lauren French, Marketing Manager  & Elizabeth Frank, Director of Client Services, Digital Benefit Advisors Richmond 

Now that the millennials are a larger population than the baby boomers, they have positioned themselves to re-shape the workforce and economy in a way that most employers are not ready for. The discussion of millennials and their expectations in the workplace is a growing topic and should be a focus for employers if you wish to attract and retain this generation. Though many executives may have negative perceptions on behaviors and values this generation may possess, it is important to realize that employers who take the time to understand and engage with this growing workforce population will have greater success than those who choose to ignore the wants and needs of millennials. As you ask yourself the following questions, it is important to be mindful that not all millennials are the same and though some changes may be needed within your organization, you must keep in mind the variety of generations in today’s workforce.

1) Are you providing choice and variety?

This generation is all about instant gratification. This is especially true when it comes to accessing information. When evaluating benefits, they are looking for choices. As an employer, it is important to offer a variety of benefits, including employer-paid and voluntary options.

2)  Are your employees able to customize based on their personal needs?

Along with offering a variety of benefits, are you giving a choice of plan design within these lines of coverage? While you want to avoid giving too many options, consider providing base and buy up options to your benefits package. Millennials want to control how they spend their money and make selections based on their own personal needs.

3) Are you simplifying the journey through communication and technology?

Communication is important, especially to millennials who feel a benefits package is only one piece of several components evaluated when looking to accept a job offer from a company. Information should be clear, concise and readily available. Technology platforms are becoming extremely popular in creating a unique onboarding experience, as well as a more streamline open enrollment process eliminating the use of paper. This is appealing to this generation as they are used to technology constantly at their fingertips and prefer the use of online tools over the abundance of paperwork that come with enrolling in benefits.

4) Do you encourage collaboration in the workplace?

Collaboration is key to the millennial generation. Through the ever-growing social platforms, this is where they interact through networks to obtain information. Companies that position themselves as thought leaders through regular blog posts gain trust from this generation because it provides easy access to a forum where they are able to collect information and exchange ideas with others.

As leaders, continue to listen to what you are hearing in the workplace. Take the time to educate yourself on what is trending, embrace change and speak the language of your perspective customers. Get to the party early!

Benefits administrative work presents opportunity for adviser help

Article originally published on Employee Benefit Adviser.

Employers are struggling to meet the “overwhelming” compliance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, according to Chris Schutt, managing principal of the Virginia office of Digital Benefit Advisors. In a discussion with EBA, Schutt said administrative level challenges can create opportunities for benefit advisers.

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The Mechanics of Underwriting

by Gina Palladino, Financial Analyst, DBA Hartford 

Before I began my career in the insurance industry, I only ever heard of underwriting in terms of applying for a mortgage. It seemed to be that black hole, where weird things happened with rates and percentages and suddenly what you expected to pay, was much different. In the employer insurance group marketplace, it can appear to be the same. Although a lot goes into underwriting, these are few of the basic principles:

You get an increase! You get an increase! You get an increase!

When was the last time you went to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk and you realized the price went down? I imagine, never. That holds true for medical and pharmacy costs. Year over year, one thing remains – health costs get more expensive. This is also known as trend. On average, medical trend increases anywhere from 8%-11% annually and pharmacy is usually around 12%, but can be upwards of 15%! There are many factors that can affect this principle; pharmacy for example has seen huge spikes due to mandated changes to a maximum charge of $5 generic drugs and those ever looming specialty drugs. In terms of a renewal, this means the same doctor visit you had today would be about 10% more next year. For your renewal, if your claims performed exactly where they were expected, the starting renewal would be about 10%. Continue reading

What Regulatory Issues Should You Be Watching in 2016?

By Philip Saul, Principal, Digital Benefit Advisors Richmond

To a large degree, employers have been consumed over the last few years determining which aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) apply and how to be in compliance with the law. The most recent task, absorbing both time and resources, has been the ACA reporting requirements for Applicable Large Employers. While that issue will remain front and center for the foreseeable future, there are other significant compliance concerns employers needs to be aware of. Many are an offshoot – or next wave – of the ACA.

Here are some things to keep in mind this year that could impact your business: Continue reading

Expect More Than Simple Cost Shifting Strategies from Your Broker

By John Meister, Consultant, Digital Benefit Advisors Southern California 

The simple phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” truly speaks to the world of Human Resources and Finance today. Juggling various business functions, service providers and responsibilities, employers aren’t always aware of what they should be anticipating from their brokers. Here at Digital, our benefit consultants approach employer benefit strategies holistically—it’s one of the core differences between our approach and others in the industry.

For most companies in the US, we are now a few months removed from the open enrollment season and renewals with insurance carriers have been completed. As it relates to health insurance and employee benefits, what should your expectations be for your broker in 2016? With the rise of the Affordable Care Act, as well as the release of various innovative software and creative cost reduction strategies, the expectation for greater involvement and better service from health insurance brokers has increased. Because employers aren’t always aware of what these new innovations or creative strategies might look like, below is a quick list highlighting our approach to a holistic benefits strategy: Continue reading

The Importance of Preventative Health Care

By Dawn Seften, Senior Advisor, Digital Benefit Advisors Hartford 

As a Senior Advisor, I am responsible for managing and servicing our existing client relationships. I participate in renewal strategy meetings and often see our clients struggling with rate increases and the difficult decisions on how to cut healthcare costs while still maintaining the best benefits for employees and their families. We hear the buzzwords over and over again: consumer driven health plans, pharmacy carve outs, specialty drug management programs, tiered networks – the list goes on. Many employers are adopting these trends that will no doubt help to save the health plan money. Still, it seems to me that there is one simple resource available that is often overlooked and underutilized by many of us. This tool will help to lower the cost of healthcare without reducing employee coverage. Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know About Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)

By Bob Marino, Principal, DBA Hartford

Health Care Reform has brought about significant changes in the healthcare market, arguably some good as well some not-so-good. One major change is the transformation of how care is delivered. We are experiencing a change in the structure of paying providers for the number of services delivered to paying for improved outcomes and cost efficiency through a variety of models called Accountable Care Organizations (ACO). These models use a combination of technology and data, along with financial incentives to help providers coordinate care and improve clinical outcomes. Medicare was an early adopter, and approximately 423 organizations are participating in the Medicare ACO program. Future Medicare ACO programs will allow Medicare beneficiaries to choose an ACO versus other care models, and may provide a financial incentive to the Medicare beneficiary to do so. Continue reading

Battle Health Care Cost Increases with a Level-Funded Plan Approach

By linkedin-mini Kathryn Boyd-Little, Principal, DBA Tennessee

Year after year, employers find themselves battling large increases on their health insurance plans with little to no warning.  Unfortunately, this creates an extremely challenging environment, forcing the employer to make tough decisions that affect not only their bottom line, but the quality of benefits they offer.  Employers either end up absorbing the increases, passing the buck off on employees, making benefit changes, or a combination of the three.

The most difficult part of this annual cost crisis is that the employer must make benefits decisions with little to no data in regards to where the increases may be coming from.  In a world where benefits can be one of the highest expenditures for an employer, the renewal process can be crippling. Fortunately, there is an option to help employers break the vicious cycle. Continue reading