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Navigating a Change in Group Benefit Providers?

12/31/2015

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There are many reasons a company might change group benefit providers. The business may have grown and a new plan is required to account for the additional personnel. An employer might want to attract high-quality employees or retain current ones by offering a unique or more comprehensive benefit package. A business might need to provide greater health coverage to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or an employer might simply see more value for their company and employees by switching to a different provider.

Whatever the reason, this is not a transition that can or should be made overnight. It requires great attention to detail by employers and a long period of preparation and education for its’ employees. Here are some things to consider if you're mulling over a change in benefits and trying to pull it off in-house. 

GIVE AN EXPLANATION

Be able to explain why a change is necessary to both management and employees. This is not a decision to make on a whim or done just to shake things up. A thorough discussion about the proposed change should take place with other key members of management as well providing clear documentation of all decisions made. 

COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE

Once you've decided to switch benefits providers, let employees know as soon as possible. Leave plenty of time for the employees to absorb the change. This entails a bit more than making an announcement. Significant time and resources need to be used to educate employees on the new benefits package and how it differs between the old one. Employees need to have access to written materials (or a very supportive online enrollment system) and management should make available employee meetings during open enrollment to help them navigate the nuances. 

CREATE A BENEFITS COMMITTEE

It would be wise to have one or more people in-house in charge of facilitating this transition as well as having a representative from your new benefits team present and readily available to answer questions. Employees need to know if they will have to change medical providers or if the prescriptions they take will be covered under the new health plan. 

BLACKOUT PERIOD ALERTS

With 401K investments, things can get very complicated during a benefits change. You must inform your employees of any blackout periods (while money is transferred) during which time they won't be able to access their accounts.

SECURE YOUR ASSETS

It's your responsibility as an employer to make sure that assets are not lost in transition and that the previous vendor and new vendor have their financial ducks in a row. You should also be transparent about where money is going when being transferred from old investments to new ones. 

CHOOSE WISELY

As an employer, keep in mind the different type of health plans available to you. Each plan potentially has advantages. Get your broker to explain the benefits of each type of plan and determine what type of plans your company can afford. There are many misconceptions about qualified high deductible health plans and education is key to understanding how each plan type can benefit both the employer and employee.  

Additionally, don't just consider cost when selecting new benefit plans. Consider customer service as well and ask questions about the type of support you will receive from both your provider and broker after any products have been put in place. Find out what kind of support staff will be available to your employees to assist them with any questions or issues once the plans are in effect.  

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT 

The ACA has changed the game as far as what type of plans are required of providers to offer. Make sure your medical plan is ACA compliant. It’s also changed the landscape of what employers have to report as it relates to their full time employees. Make sure your plan meets the minimum requirements of coverage. Make sure that you have a process in place to confirm with the reporting requirements of ACA and that you know what is required of you as an employer based on the number of employees you have.

There are so many complex considerations and loose ends to tie up when you change benefits providers. Working with a professional organization that provides full human resources support, like LBMC EP, can ease the burden and ensure every last detail of this process has been accounted for. We'll make sure your plan is a good fit for your company (for both you as the employer and for your employees). We’ll make sure that the plans offered are both affordable and compliant so that you are complying with ACA. We have professional staff that is available to answer any health or financial concerns your employees might have. We can even help you navigate difficult ACA stipulations.