How to Change Employee Benefits Providers during the Pandemic
Your employee benefits plan is an important part of the compensation package you provide employees. It allows you to attract and retain talent in a competitive job marketplace and, crucially during a pandemic, it supports your employees and their families when they need it most. But if you’re not satisfied with your plan, it’s probably time to change providers – even if we are in the middle of a pandemic.
Is the Grass Greener?
You’ve heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” but is it really? When it comes to employee benefits, are there better options out there? Or are employee benefits largely the same, regardless of which provider you use?
If you’re unhappy with your employee benefits plan, it’s time to do some research. Whether you’re unhappy with the cost, the service, the benefits themselves or any other element of your plan, your first step is to recognize that sometimes the grass is greener.
You may be concerned about more change during an already turbulent time, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, but waiting to change providers might actually hurt you more.
The insurer or Third-Party Administrator (TPA)
When exploring options on where to purchase employee benefits, there are two choices: directly from the insurer, or through a Third-Party Administrator (TPA).
- Insurer – Traditionally, if an employer wanted to sponsor a group benefits plan, they would go directly to an insurance company. They’d be given a few plan options, they’d make a choice and the insurer would put the plan in place. The insurer would be responsible both for assuming the risk (underwriting) of the plan and for the administration of the plan. This included paying claims, providing customer service and being the contact for all things related to the plan. Insurers became plan administrators by default, not by design.
- Third-Party Administrator (TPA) – Although third-party administrators have been around for a long time, it wasn’t until recently that they began emerging as a valuable alternative to traditional insurer provided employee benefit plans. Purchasing a plan from a third-party administrator means an insurer still underwrites the plan, but the third-party administrator does everything else. The advantage is the third-party administrator can choose the best coverages from multiple insurers, then package them together for the plan. Because third-party administrators are created specifically for plan administration, they’re experts at plan delivery, management and customer service. They can save you money because they use their pool of business to secure good rates with insurers (via group buying power). This is an option definitely worth considering.
Do Your Research
Before choosing a new group benefits provider, it’s important to research the provider to ensure they are a good fit for your company. Some of the things you should look for are:
- Long term Focus – Ensure any provider you are considering will be a good fit for you over the long term. Make sure they are able to support your company as it changes, and that they have strategies to protect the long-term sustainability of the plan.
- Cost containment features – An important way to protect the long-term sustainability of the plan is to build cost containment features into your plan. Cost containment options for prescription drugs and disability are especially important. Both prescription drugs and disability claims account for a significant portion of the total cost of the plan.
- Customer Service – In order to improve your employee benefits plan and experience, it’s important to have a benefits provider who is excellent at customer service. What avenues do you or your in-house Plan Administrator have to get help with the plan? How quickly can you expect a callback and what will the customer service experience look like for your employees?
- Easy plan administration for you – Changing to a different benefits provider can create work for you. However, with the right provider, the change should be smooth. Next, you’ll want to ensure your new provider gives you tools to make it easy to administer the plan from your end. How is their online interface? Are you able to easily enter employee information and will you be reminded of important dates and timelines for employees covered under the plan?
- References – As with everything, it’s always a good idea to get some client references for any new benefits provider you are considering. Hearing feedback from another employer like yourself can be very valuable when considering a new provider.
Making the Change During a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying physical distancing requirements mean that conducting research and switching to a new provider may look a little different. The good news is, it’s still very much doable -and in many circumstances, advisable! Meetings can be conducted virtually; a good provider will be able to show you everything you need to know from a safe distance (virtually!). This includes demonstrations of online options that employees will use.
Technology can also play a big role in employee enrolment if you do decide to switch providers. At GroupHEALTH, we offer Canada’s first end-to-end online enrollment option. This means paperless enrollment in the plan; during the current pandemic, this is safer for everyone.
Good Advice is Key
Changing your employee benefits provider during the pandemic doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, if you make the switch to the right provider it should actually make your life easier. Review your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone, or contact us for a comparison quote.