Hard to believe, as the last 18 months have been a complete blur for most of us, but 2021 is quickly coming to an end. We’ve seen the workforce in many industries almost completely shut down and then bounce back and dip again. With all of this craziness, just about every one of our business partners has openings they’d like to fill with the right person. It’s just tough to find people right now. We are included in that list as well. With the enhanced unemployment benefits recently ending, there’s talk that maybe people will start making their way back into the workforce. Fingers crossed. I certainly hope that holds true.
Don’t Fear Change, Fear Not Changing
With the changing work environment and the thought that it will probably not ever go back to the “way it was,” we wanted to speak a little about things that you could start thinking of for next year that may be a little out of the norm. Nothing too crazy, just some slight changes here and there. It’s all about baby steps and making small incremental changes. After a handful of those, before you know it, you’ve actually done a lot, but it doesn’t all have to be at once. Find the thing you want to change the most and tackle that. Then whatever’s next. In time you will have accomplished a lot. The most important point I’m trying to make is that if you’re not willing to try some different approaches to things, you’re probably not going to see any major differentiation in what you are doing. We’ve all heard the old definition of the insanity line. Apply that to your approach with your employees and benefits. Any of that hold true?
Five Creative Program Design Changes
Today I just wanted to talk a few minutes to walk through some benefit-related items that are normal for some but, for most, would be a step off the beaten path. There’s no silver bullet or magic snake oil that will cause everyone’s problems all at once. Still, in the following, we hope to give you some ideas on ways to think outside of the box and possibly change the trajectory of where some of your benefits and the costs associated with them are heading.
In the below list, I will talk about some of our favorite twists and turns we take from time to time when helping people design programs to get some awesome benefits in place and help control costs.
- Dental MAC programs – This is one of my favorite changes to make on a dental plan when it makes sense to do so. MAC stands for Maximum Allowable Cost, and this phrase refers to how out-of-network benefits are paid. When you have a MAC plan, out-of-network providers are paid the same as in-network. The opposite approach is usually referred to as R&C or UCR. Those stand for Reasonable and Customary and Usual and Customary Rates. These typically will have a percentage tied to them, and when the out-of-network benefit has this type of setting, that non-contracted provider is paid based on the average costs of the area, not the in-network contracted rates. This percentage-based approach is good for those who don’t use the network, but it also drives up the premiums for your entire company on the dental plan. If there are plenty of network providers in your area, why continue with UCR / R&C? Does it make sense to increase costs for everyone for a select few? It might, we don’t know. 😊
- Breaking away from the big providers – We all know them, they are often referred to as BUCA or BUCAH, depending on where you are and who you are talking to, but that acronym stands for Blue Cross, United, CIGNA, and Aetna. Those are the big four health insurance providers that are out there. Sometimes you’ll see the H on the end, and no, that doesn’t stand for Holloway. It stands for Humana. All of these companies are very good companies and have been around for a long time, but they are legacy carriers. They are like big giant ships. They don’t tend to move very fast, and change doesn’t happen too often. You might consider breaking away from the norm and looking at a small regional player or even a local TPA that can use one of the above networks but not pay all the associated costs and overhead that you typically have with these big giant companies. If you’re feeling really zany, have you ever thought about Reference Based Pricing where you’re not using a network at all?
- Engaging employees differently – Talk to your employees, poll them, get their feedback so you can make changes/improvements in areas that are important to them. If you have less than 50 employees, you don’t have to offer benefits, but you’re doing it. Why not find out what they are interested in and going down that path instead of spending time/resources on benefits you think they might want? The biggest mistake we see with startup programs most consistently is employers thinking they know what their workforce wants, only to find out later they missed the mark. There are numerous free and low-cost survey tools out there. You really can save a lot of time and energy by engaging your staff on the front end to find out how you as a company can help them. Benefits are about recruiting and retention for most companies. It’s best when a conversation can be had about that with your staff. Meet them at the table. Find out what’s important to them.
- Go paperless – Just like survey options, there’s a good number of solutions available for companies to go paperless, even the small mom and pop businesses. Most payroll solutions nowadays and even many insurance providers and agents in our space have some tailored solutions. Pushing paper and physical signatures through scans and emails can be very taxing and often problematic as forms don’t get filled out correctly. Invest in some technology or partner with someone who has some resources and take that step. It will save your HR folks time and effort, but from an employee standpoint, it looks pretty good as well.
- Explore Direct Primary Care Options or Telemedicine – The fact is, health insurance is expensive. Healthcare is expensive, so the insurance that covers it is, guess what, yes, it’s expensive too. Then we have the employee benefits market, and within that market, with every single company, there’s a segment of the population working for guess what? Income. Moolah. Dinero. This population tends to live paycheck to paycheck, and they want to take home every single hard-earned dollar they can and should. They are working to keep food on the table, pay rent or a mortgage, keep the lights on, etc. These employees, who are typically hourly, are not working for benefits. They are working to make money. Plain and simple. They don’t see the value in the benefits you are offering, and they don’t enroll in them because their paycheck would shrink if they did. That’s counterintuitive to someone with this train of thought. They don’t want your benefits. BUT if you want to help them or give them something, think of offering telemedicine or limited benefit plans to those who don’t take your major medical. In doing this, you are investing about 90% less in these employees than you would if you were paying for health insurance, but you are still getting them and their family doctor access which most of them probably do not have today. Get creative. If you want to take care of your employees or need a skinny program to start, you can take some very interesting approaches.
H|BC Is Always Here To Help
I hope these five bullet points help get your wheels turning and possibly thinking about things a little bit differently. Most of our business partners aren’t doing benefits because they have to, it’s because they want to, and they care about their employees, and we love that. That lets us always stay creative and looking for new solutions and opportunities to help enhance the client and employee experience at all levels. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us to discuss your needs or for a free benefits analysis.