Maximizing Open Enrollment for Employees

Open enrollment can be an overwhelming time for both employers and employees. Employees are given the opportunity to re-evaluate their current benefits and make changes for the coming year, while employers must choose a benefits package that balances cost and value and facilitate the enrollment process. Due to a variety of factors, benefit offerings are changing, placing new demands on employees and employers during open enrollment. To make the enrollment process as smooth as possible, it is important that employers educate and communicate with their employees effectively.

The Open Enrollment Process

As employer-sponsored benefits transition to more voluntary, employee-paid or employee-subsidized offerings, employees must assume more control in making smart decisions. Accordingly, employers should provide benefit information in an easy-to-understand format that provides employees with essential information, along with additional resources to help them make decisions.

Here is a typical open enrollment process:

  • Notification – Employers send out an organization-wide announcement alerting employees that open enrollment will begin shortly. 
  • Receipt of Information – Employers distribute information about benefit plans, selection information and the appropriate forms to their workers. Employees may also receive personal information based on their elections from the previous year.
  • Employers may direct their employees to the company website, invite them to attend HR seminars, offer a benefit fair with the insurance company or offer access to interactive decision-making tools. 
  • Making Decisions – Employees research their various benefits options and discuss with family to determine which benefits they will elect for the coming year.
  • Enrollment – Employees select their benefits.

Open Enrollment Strategies

The following suggestions, based partially on an employee survey conducted by MetLife®, can improve the open enrollment process for both employers and their employees:

  • Establish solid communication between the HR department and employees. To do so effectively, conduct meetings and seminars and offer calculators, intranet education information and benefit fairs. If your organization is smaller, conduct one-on-one meetings with employees to determine exactly the type of information they need.
  • Survey your employee population to determine their priorities—product importance, preferred method of communication, etc. By doing so, employers can identify exactly what their employees want, and workers feel their needs have been heard by decision-makers.
  • Customize benefits and information resources to the life stages of your employees. For instance, if you have a large older population, feature more retiree benefits and long-term care insurance.

Communication

It is also wise to communicate with your employees in the same way that they communicate on a regular basis. For example, if messages are received via postings in a common area, consider placing benefit information in that area as well.

  • By customizing your benefits to your population, you can increase employee satisfaction without increasing your spending.
  • Employees have an easier time selecting the benefits that are best suited for them and their families.
  • Provide easy-to-understand tools. This will lessen employee confusion and the feeling of being overwhelmed while trying to make tough decisions.
  • Consider offering new benefits, even if they are voluntary, such as dental insurance, vision insurance or benefits for prescription drugs. Employees tend to make more changes when they receive new options.
  • Even if employees must pay 100 percent for such voluntary options, they can still be attractive offerings. Since the benefits are negotiated by the employer, employees typically receive a group rate, which is significantly lower than purchasing them individually.
  • Offer a second, off-cycle enrollment period when new benefits are featured. This can be a time for employees to focus on voluntary benefits and other offerings that are not traditional. These benefits are typically overshadowed by health insurance and retirement options, so a second off-cycle enrollment is a great time for employees to focus on their other needs. 
  • Make plan information as simple as possible, while also being interactive. Employees should be able to understand their offerings to make more knowledgeable decisions.
  • Maintain all Summary Plan Descriptions on your website, rather than directing employees to the insurance carrier site for information. This provides easy access to information and makes the company appear more in control of the information.

Overall, a successful and effective open enrollment process can have a dramatic impact on the relationship between employers and their employees. By catering to their needs and wants, employers will ultimately make the experience more enjoyable and worthwhile for their workers. As a result, they will feel more secure in their benefits decisions throughout the plan year.

Switching Health Plans

The thought of changing your health insurance plan may be daunting. But when you learn your employer is making changes, it provides you with the opportunity to review your health care needs and possibly select a better-suited plan.

The first thing that many people think about when picking an employer-sponsored health care plan is price. What are the plan’s premiums and out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., deductible, copayment and coinsurance)? While price is undeniably an important factor when choosing a new plan, there are several other criteria that should be examined before electing new coverage.

Reviewing Provider Networks
When weighing your new plan options, it is important to check out each insurer’s website to determine if your current physician is within the plan’s network. Knowing which physicians are in-network can help reduce costs, since receiving out-of-network care typically will result in higher out-of-pocket expenses.

Prescription Drug Coverage
Some insurance plans have certain drug formularies, or a preferred list of medications, and step therapy requirements, which require individuals to try more cost-effective treatments before “stepping up” to more costly drugs.

If step therapy requirements are not followed or if your medication is not on the carrier’s formulary, your prescription could cost more, or it may not be covered at all. If you regularly take a certain medication, you will want to visit your new carrier’s website to view the plan’s drug list. A drug requiring step therapy, for example, may be marked with an “ST.” If a medication you take is on this list, contact your physician to determine the best course of action. Reviewing prescription drug coverage before selecting a plan helps ensure you are financially prepared for any adjustments to prescription drug coverage and can reduce confusion at the time of pharmacy pick-up.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coverage

Although mental and behavioral health treatments are one of the 10 essential benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individual insurance policies may vary on the extent to which these services are covered. For instance, some plans may cap reimbursement at 20 therapy visits while others may not have an annual limit. Being aware that limits for these services may change between your old and new plan is essential when planning for and managing your health care expenses.

Upcoming Scheduled Medical Procedures

If you have already scheduled a medical procedure for the new plan year, it is important to contact your physician’s office to ensure you are still covered under your new plan. For example, a pre-authorization for surgery may be required by your new insurer, so by communicating insurance changes with your physician’s office prior to receiving services, you can avoid any billing surprises after the procedure.

Tax-advantaged Options

Lastly, some plans may feature tax-advantaged options like a health reimbursement account (HRA) or health savings account (HSA). While these programs vary in requirements and structure (for example, HSAs must be tied to a high deductible health plan), their end goal is to help minimize health care expenses. Reviewing new plans to see if an HRA or HSA is offered may be one way to potentially reduce your financial responsibilities.

Call 800-747-3241 or email us directly if you have any questions.

Choosing a Stop-Loss Partner

Thinking about self-funding? Better think about stop-loss insurance.

If you want to save money by self-funding your employee benefit plans without the danger of unexpected, catastrophic losses, you’re not alone. Even many smaller companies are exploring this option nowadays. The Unland Companies and Sun Life know that today, many employers and brokers are exploring the self-funding option:

 

66% of employers with 100-499 lives are interested in self-funding. 64% of brokers believe that their fully insured clients are becoming more interested in self-funding.

Risks and rewards

As always, this insurance comes with a lot of options that can be complicated. How to make the right choice that saves money without undue risk? That’s where a good broker like the Unland Companies comes in, with the right tools and information to help you make the right choices.

 

Benefits Top 5 Concerns

Choosing the right stop-loss partner

The Unland Companies partners with Sun Life, a leading independent U.S. stop-loss carrier that has more than 35 years in the stop-loss business, strong financial ratings and the ability to reimburse even the largest high-cost claims quickly.

 

Education

Learning

In addition, Sun Life offers educational modules for brokers and employers, a Stop-Loss Benchmark Report for all clients that provides unbiased, rich data across case sizes, industries and claim administrators, and thought leadership, including insights on high-cost claims, injectable drugs and the value of a group captive solution. A new program that will help employers monitor and manage costs associated with their self-funded medical plan is Sun Life’s Stop-Loss Clinical 360 program. This program pairs clinical experts with programs and tools to proactively identify savings opportunities, and it is available to all Sun Life stop-loss clients.

 

Stop-loss captives

Why Sun Life?

Sun Life has the expertise you’re looking for, including 4.2 million covered lives, 2,100 policy holders and $1.4 billion in premiums. (Source: Sun Life Financial book of business data, 2017.) You can trust Sun Life to put its expertise to work for you.

What’s the next step?

Contact the Unland Companies today and start learning about your options for self-funding.

 

1. Sun Life Broker and Employer Voices Online Community surveys. This is a research tool that gains insights from a group of over 300 brokers and 200 employers. Brokers and employers are asked to provide feedback on topics pertaining to their experience in the insurance industry and with Sun Life products and services.

2. 2016 Employer Insights research study sponsored by Sun Life and conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey. The blind study included decision-makers for companies that had from 50 to 999 employees and offered medical benefits to all their full-time employees.

3. 2018 Self-funded Employer Journey research sponsored by Sun Life and conducted by Conifer Research.

Group stop-loss insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA) in all states, except New York, under Policy Form Series 07-SL REV 7-12. In New York, group stop-loss insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Lansing, MI) under Policy Form Series 07-NYSL REV 7-12. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations.

© 2018 Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481. All rights reserved. Sun Life Financial and the globe symbol are registered trademarks of Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. Visit Sun Life at www.sunlife.com/us.

Safety First Newsletter – September 2018

Work Safety

September is National Preparedness Month. Take this opportunity to educate your employees with these and many more employee communication safety resources.

More than 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster, according to FEMA. Making sure your employees are prepared for emergencies not only ensures their safety, but also safeguards your business. September is National Preparedness Month. Take this opportunity to educate your employees with these and many more employee communication safety resources available from The Unland Companies:

Unland - September Newsletter

  • Emergency Contacts and Emergency Response Training Questionnaire
  • Safety Spotlight – Preparing for Emergency Evacuations
  • Be Prepared: Fire Emergency
  • Employee Emergency Preparedness Survey
  • Quiz: Emergency Action Plan
  • Playing it Safe: Medical Emergencies on the Job

Employee Shape Up Program

Shape Up is a program designed to encourage healthy, fit and active lifestyles through an increased focus on aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching. Physical activity can lead to many benefits:

  • Weight maintenance
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved glucose (blood sugar) regulation
  • Stronger bone density

As a participant in the Shape Up Program, you will be encouraging yourself and your co-workers to incorporate aerobic, strength training and flexibility exercises into your daily routine. This guide will provide informational and introductory guidance for each of the three exercise program components.

 

Get the details and encourage your employees to start the Shape Up Program here.

Benefits of a Mentoring Program

A mentor is an individual in the workplace who shares his or her knowledge and expertise to help another employee grow professionally. Mentoring programs can benefit not only the mentees, but also the mentors and the company as whole. The following are some of the benefits of a mentoring program.

Benefits for the Mentee

Mentees can achieve the following benefits through a mentoring program:

  • Skill development—Mentors teach mentees the skills and qualities they will need to succeed, along with familiarizing them with the company’s protocol and procedures. This, in turn, can teach mentees how to do their jobs more efficiently.
  • Continual growth—Mentors provide ongoing feedback to their mentees and teach them how to take constructive criticism and apply it to their jobs. This type of feedback can feel less intrusive than regular performance reviews and employees may respond better to it as a result.
  • Networking—Mentoring allows employees to build a professional relationship over a period of time and teaches them about the value of networking.
  • Talent development—By providing mentees with the skills and support they need to succeed, mentees will be more prepared to advance to new positions within the company and to take on leadership roles.

Benefits for the Mentor

Mentoring programs can also reap significant benefits for the mentors themselves, including the following:

  • It gives mentors the opportunity to help someone else out, which may increase mentors’ self-worth.
  • It helps mentors re-energize their careers, which may increase their commitment to your company.
  • It allows mentors to fine-tune their communication and leadership skills, which can be valuable as they continue to grow in their own careers.

Benefits for the Company

In addition, there are significant benefits that can be realized by your company:

  • Retention—Mentoring helps employees feel more engaged in their work and more in control of their careers. Employees will feel like the company cares about them and may be more loyal as a result—in turn, reducing turnover-related costs.
  • Recruitment—Advertising a mentoring program can help recruit qualified candidates and establish yourself as an employer of choice within your industry.
  • Productivity—Because employees have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively, this can increase productivity and reduce the number of errors made on the job. Employees may also feel more confident in their work and spend less time second-guessing themselves.
  • Company Culture—By encouraging employees to build positive relationships with one another, you can promote a sense of cooperation and teamwork at your company.

Mentoring programs can be a low-cost way to increase retention, attract new talent and improve employee morale—all of which can help protect your bottom line for years to come.

For more information on recruitment and retention strategies, contact The Unland Companies today.

Why You Should Consider Self-Funding

Self-funding has always been a potential cost-saving option for larger employers, particularly as health care costs have risen and the employee benefits system has gotten more complex with the introduction of ACA. Self-funding offers many potential benefits for employers:

  • More cost flexibility and often lower costs, as employers simply pay for medical expenses as they come rather than paying a premium to a health insurance carrier, in addition to lower administrative costs
  • More flexibility in plan design, rather than having to find a plan through an insurance carrier that fits the needs of their employee group and budget
  • Less regulation, because self-funded health plans are regulated differently than fully insured plans

Traditionally, self-funding was thought to be most feasible for larger employer groups, as they could assume the risk necessary with managing their own health care claims. However, today self-funding is moving down market as costs rise and regulations increase for small groups. Self-funding has become more of an attractive option for groups of all sizes, and the protection of stop-loss insurance helps mitigate the financial risk.

But due to the common perception that self-funding is for large groups only, many small groups don’t realize it’s even an option for them. Even many larger groups have never considered self-funding simply because they are familiar with traditional fully insured plans.

If you’ve never considered self-funding, or simply thought it wasn’t a good fit for a group of your size, this ebook is for you. Read on to learn more about self-funding and how it may be able to benefit you in this time of rising health care costs and increased regulations.


More Plan Design & Cost Flexibility

Self-funding has become an attractive option for employers of all sizes, as it offers more flexibility with plan design and can be an opportunity to manage soaring costs.

Self-Funding Isn’t Just for Large Employers Anymore

Employers of all sizes are starting to explore self-funding as a cost saving option—even smaller groups who traditionally never considered self-funding in the past. Why this move toward self-funding? It’s no secret that health care costs have continued to rise, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has only added costs for many groups of late, especially for smaller groups. Self-funding offers a way to avoid many of the costs associated with ACA, while designing a plan that prevents some of the extreme cost increases that groups are facing today.

Plus, ACA actually makes self-funding a less risky option for small groups than in the past, due to the guaranteed issue provision. In the past, smaller groups may have worried about choosing self-funding, in case they couldn’t get a reasonable quote if they chose to go back to a fully insured plan at some point. With the guaranteed issue provision, groups need not worry about that risk, as insurers cannot deny individuals or groups coverage under ACA.


Self-Funding Allows Flexibility Not Found with Fully Insured Plans

One of the central benefits of self-funding is that employer groups have more options in terms of plan design, because they are not limited by the plans the health insurance carriers offer in the area. This allows more plan design and cost flexibility than shopping on the fully insured market. Self-insuring allows employers to get creative with their plan design to choose one or more plans that fit their budget as well as their employee needs.

This creativity in plan design is an important tool for employers looking to manage increasing costs while still providing a competitive plan to their employees. In the fully insured market, employers are limited by plan designs offered by health insurers, but can be much more flexible and creative when designing their own self-insured plan. Though self-funding is not for every group, many small companies are finding this option a good alternative as it allows them to tailor a plan that fits the unique needs of their small employer group.

In addition, rather than paying a premium each month, self-funded groups only pay medical claims as they come in—which can be a significant benefit for groups with healthier employee populations and active wellness programs. Plus, there are generally fewer administrative costs, which make self-funding more cost effective in many situations.


Fewer Regulations to Comply With

Not only has ACA increased costs, as mentioned in Chapter 1, but it has also introduced many new regulations with which to comply. In addition to increasing costs, these provisions add complexity and extra work to managing employee benefits. However, many of these provisions apply only to fully insured plans, which is another reason that self-funding has become more appealing for employer groups of all sizes. In this chapter, we’ll discuss some of the more prominent ACA provisions that have negatively impacted employer groups.

Community Rating

Adjusted Community Rating caused costs to increase for many small groups, in some cases significantly. In addition, quotes for smaller groups are now much longer and more complicated due to the Community Rating changes, making benefits planning more of a headache each year.

For this reason, small groups who many never have considered self-funding before are exploring that option to avoid the complexity of Community Rating.


Wellness

Another part of the Community Rating provision addresses wellness, and applies to employers of all sizes. It specifies that employers with wellness programs no longer get lower premiums for their healthier employee populations. Previously, investing in a wellness program and achieving a healthier employee population would pay off in the form of a lower premium in the fully-insured marketplace. Now that Adjusted Community Rating is in play, the employer no longer gets benefits for their wellness accomplishments and pays the same as any other company, negating the efforts of their wellness program.

Self-funding offers these companies the opportunity to take full advantage of the improved health of their employee population and design their health plan how they chose, without needing to comply with the Adjusted Community Rating provision—for example, they can offer lower premiums as incentives based on their wellness program.

Community Rating

The Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision states that insurers can only spend a certain percentage of their profits on “administrative” costs. For that reason, insurers have streamlined their operations in a variety of ways, with many insurers offering fewer plan options to small groups to keep operations lean and costs down. The result for small employer groups is that it is tougher to find a more tailored health plan to meet the unique needs a small group has, which makes self-funding an attractive alternative.

Employers who choose to self-fund are not limited by the plan design options provided by health insurers, and can design a creative plan that fits both their budget and employee needs.


What You Need to Know About Self-Funding

Self-funding is an attractive option to many employers because it offers more flexibility than traditional fully insured plans. However, there are other important factors to consider when self-funding.

  • ERISA: Self-funding frees you from some regulations, such as ACA, but is governed by ERISA, which is a federal law. This means that employers who self-fund have certain documentation and reporting requirements under ERISA.
  • Stop-loss insurance: Stop-loss insurance is a vital part of self-funding, particularly for a smaller group who cannot afford to take on too much risk. This helps the employer manage costs and offers a safety net for large claims.
  • Wellness: Self-funded plans can benefit significantly from an effective wellness program; the healthier an employee population is, the fewer claims there are likely to be. For employers who already have a wellness program, this is a benefit of self-funding. Otherwise, employers want to considering implementing a wellness program if they explore self-funding.
  • Administration: Administration is different for self-funding, so this needs to be a consideration. Many employers choose to work with a third-party administrator (TPA) to administer their plan.
  • Financial impact: Moving to a self-funded plan requires a much different budgeting and forecasting model, as claims must be paid when they occur, as opposed to paying a monthly premium. So while self-funding can certainly save money, it can also have a significant financial impact on an employer’s budget. It’s important to plan ahead for this change in budgeting and forecasting of costs.
  • Discrimination testing: Another important regulation on self-funded plans is that they are not discriminatory, so discrimination testing is a must.


Conclusion

Self-funding isn’t for everyone, but it isn’t just for large employer groups anymore. With the implementation of ACA and perpetually rising health care costs, self-funding is becoming another cost-saving option for many employer groups searching for the ideal benefit plan solution.

Benefits of Bundling Commercial Policies

Insurance carriers realize that offering additional lines of coverage to an existing customer is less expensive than trying to attract new customers. They also know that the more lines a given customer has, the longer they’re likely to stay with them.

While bundling policies is beneficial to insurance carriers, it is also highly beneficial to their customers. Similar to how bundling your personal home and auto policies may give you a discount, bundling your business policies can provide benefits way beyond cost savings.

Simplified Bookkeeping

Most businesses require a number of insurance policies in order to properly insure their operations, including:

  • Workers’ compensation
  • General liability
  • Commercial property
  • Professional liability
  • Commercial auto
  • Business interruption
  • Cyber liability
  • Directors and officers

Keeping up with that many policies isn’t an easy task for business owners. Therefore, bundling multiple policies with the same carrier simplifies things for bookkeeping purposes. Besides having fewer bills to keep track of every month, it also makes it easier come renewal time if the bundled policies renew at the same time each year.

Your HR department will also appreciate having one number to call when you’re hiring a new employee, have claims questions, are adding a location or making any other business decisions that impact your insurance.

Fewer Agents to Educate

Properly insuring your business requires explaining to your insurance agent exactly what your business does and the exposures that come with it. But without bundling your policies, you have more agents to educate, which takes time. The fewer agents you have to work with, the better equipped they’ll be to help identify and address your exposures.

Assurance That Your Policies Work Together

There may be circumstances when two of your business insurance policies have to work together. For example, you may assume that something not covered by your commercial auto policy would be covered by your commercial umbrella policy. However, many umbrella policies will only extend above an auto policy if the insurance company offering it has a specified financial strength rating. If your carrier’s rating falls below a certain grade, your umbrella policy may not cover an auto loss. That’s just one type of problem that could arise if you keep your policies under separate roofs, with separate agents.

Less Security Risk

When obtaining insurance, business owners are required to divulge sensitive personal information about their

employees, as well as financial information about the business itself. When dividing your policies among multiple agents, you’re basically providing all that information to more people than you would have to if you’d bundled your policies with one agent. And in doing so, you’re increasing the risk of highly sensitive information ending up in the wrong hands.

Better Pricing

Bundling your business’s insurance policies allows your insurance professional to give you access to multiline discounts that help boost your bottom line. Contact The Unland Companies to see if any of your insurers offer multiline discounts. We can give you estimates for bundling your policies with each carrier.

The Cost of Fatigue in the Workplace

Your business depends on the productivity of your employees, and one way to maximize your employees’ potential is to acknowledge and address problems that cause decreased productivity. You may not realize it, but fatigue in the workplace is a serious issue in America today—one that is costing employers big in lost productivity.

 

The Facts

According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 38 percent of American workers surveyed experienced “low levels of energy, poor sleep or a feeling of fatigue” during their past two weeks at work. Workers who are fatigued in the workplace are less productive, less focused, experience more health problems and are more likely to be involved in a job-related safety incident. In addition, fatigue causes more absences from work, both from the tiredness itself and also from accompanying medical problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 percent of Americans report not getting enough sleep, and 10 percent suffer from chronic insomnia.

Many people beyond those with a medical condition regularly struggle with lack of sleep, trouble sleeping and/or fatigue. The study estimated that lost productivity due to fatigue is costing American businesses about $136 million annually.

 

The Effects of Fatigue

Obvious signs of fatigue in an individual include drowsiness, moodiness, loss of energy, loss of appetite, and a lack of motivation, concentration and alertness. Often, men tend to become angry when experiencing fatigue, whereas women may be more sad and moody. In addition, fatigue can cause or be a result of other medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and diabetes.

 

What Can You Do?

Any problem that causes decreased productivity and increased absenteeism is one that you want to address in your workforce. There are several ways that you can tackle the issue of fatigue within your company:

  • Educate employees. Many people who struggle with getting adequate or quality sleep could improve their situation by making a few habit and lifestyle changes. Offer them information about the importance of getting enough sleep each night, the safety concerns of coming to work tired and tips for getting better sleep. Also remind employees that a healthy diet and regular exercise can contribute to better quality sleep.
  • Include fatigue in your wellness program. Include questions about sleep and tiredness on your health risk appraisals, and incorporate fatigue management into your wellness initiatives. Once you identify how many employees experience fatigue and/or have sleep disorders, you can offer further education, programs or referral services to address the specific problems among your employees.
  • Change company culture. Ask employees when they are most tired during the day, and consider offering extra break time to alleviate those fatigued times. This is particularly important for workers in safety-sensitive or decision-making positions. Try to make your workplace more amenable to alertness, with proper lighting, quiet break areas for employees to rest or re-charge, adequate break time and healthy food options.