3 Ways to Avoid Benefits Buyer's Remorse
Beyond simply comparing premiums and deductibles, here are the three elements that HR leaders must consider before choosing health-plan benefits for their organizations.
By Monica Majors
The tasks of researching, evaluating, recommending and offering health-plan benefits make up a large part of an HR professional's job responsibilities. The time to get it right begins well before open enrollment; otherwise, buyer's remorse could set in later on. To prevent this from happening, consider the three important elements of broker choice, strong plan offerings and ongoing feedback from employees.
A key element in avoiding buyer's remorse is selecting the right broker in the first place. Some employers may be tempted to forgo the services of a broker because they opted for an online resource or purchased benefits in some other way. Brokers bring benefits to employers of all sizes, and do so without added cost. Remember, their commissions are paid by the insurance carrier.
Good insurance brokers or agents know the lay of the land. They understand regulations and other factors affecting the health care marketplace and employee benefits. They have experience dealing with the numerous health plans and medical providers in the area. And they have good relationships with carriers to offer strong health and supplemental employee benefits.
Brokers bring expertise to the table and assist in selecting the right plan options. They have multi-carrier relationships that allow them to showcase a broad range of plans, which translates into more choices for employers and employees. Perhaps most notably, they can discuss the true cost and value of a health plan beyond premiums and deductibles.
Open enrollment is another time for brokers to shine. They help explain benefit options, assist with enrollment, answer employee questions and process the forms and paperwork required to get everyone covered. Post-enrollment, brokers can help with service and claims issues.
Strong Plan Offerings
Making sure the right plans are offered for your business so that your employees choose the right plan for them is the second way to avoid buyer's remorse. It takes knowledge of employee demographics, values and lifestyles. And it takes effective communication.
Brokers can certainly help with identifying the right plan offerings. They examine features of the plans, such as the product offerings, provider network, and pharmacy formulary. If some of the important areas of a plan are not understood early on, you're setting up your open enrollment for failure. Employee dissatisfaction runs counter to the reason employers offer benefits in the first place.
Communicate with employees early and often. Provide tools and tip sheets to help guide them through the decision-making process to select a health plan that aligns with their medical and family needs, as well as cost requirements. Buyer's remorse really comes into play if an employee doesn't understand the plan or benefits they have selected. For example, they didn't understand what a flexible spending account is and how it works. Perhaps their job requires them to travel a lot, or they have out-of-state dependents, and they opted for a narrow provider network.
Ongoing Employee Feedback
The third way to avoid buyer's remorse is to keep the lines of communication open all year long in preparation for the next open enrollment. It may mean the difference between making good choices, or hasty, last-minute selections when renewal time rolls around. Repetition reinforces messages and minimizes knowledge gaps.
Most importantly, have an open-door policy with employees. Establish an email address or message line for feedback, and consider ways to receive anonymous feedback. Create short employee satisfaction surveys; online tools make this easy to do. Or use employee focus groups to engage staff from all levels in the organization to elicit their perspective on what they like and changes that could improve the benefits offering.
By addressing these three elements of broker choice, strong plan offerings and ongoing employee feedback, you will set yourself up for benefits success. Best of all, you may avoid the feeling of buyer's remorse that comes with making a misstep somewhere along the line.
Monica Majors is vice president of strategic sales and marketing at Sutter Health Plus, a not-for-profit HMO in Northern California. Send questions or comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.