Here at Helios, I get numerous phone calls and emails each week from clients and coworkers with questions about their benefits plans. I receive questions from “Is my health insurance and HMO, PPO, or POS?” to “My employee worked a reduced schedule this month; do I have to take away their benefits?” and even as broad as “Is the recent health care legislation going to affect my organization?”. It appears as though people are increasingly confused and wary of making the wrong choice given the complications of the Affordable Care Act and the complexity of offering multiple benefit plans.
Although I consider benefits to be part of what I regularly focus on as part of my role as an HR professional, I get confused myself. Couple that with the pressure of others relying on my advice as a consultant and the thought of giving incorrect guidance thereby disqualifying an insurance plan or 401(k) plan makes my hands shake as I type this.
So how do I manage this problem of an ever-changing world of employee benefits? I’ll tell you a secret: I form strong connections and relationships with the experts!
When I use the term “expert”, I don’t necessarily mean the Brokers I work with each day. I have been fortunate to learn there is a difference between a Broker and a true Benefits Consultant.
Broker Vs. Benefits Consultant
A Broker will:
- Reach out to you ahead of your plan renewal with the new rates of your carriers and will likely come into the office to provide a one hour presentation to staff covering the highlights of the plan and allowing for a question and answer session.
A Benefits Consultant will:
- Take your relationship many steps further. Not only will they reach out to you multiple times throughout the year, they will encourage you to reach out to them with even the simplest of questions.
- Not simply refer you to the plan document for the answer, a Benefits Consultant will find the language you are looking for and explain what it means in language you will not only understand, but be able to relay to your employees.
- Negotiate new rates with your existing carriers, but will proactively shop your plan with alternative carriers giving you the confidence that you are moving forward with the most cost effective but impactful plan available to your employees.
- Most importantly, help you show the investment you make in your employees by delivering the value of the plan to your employees. Organizations spend a lot of money each year on benefit plans. Benefits Consultants help employees recognize that their total compensation is far greater than their annual salary.
This difference between a Broker and a Benefits Consultant can make or break your understanding of the plans you implement, the total cost of the benefit to the organization and the overall value of the benefits as perceived by the employee. When evaluating which Brokerage firm you partner with as you step into the Open Enrollment season this fall, ask yourself (and perhaps your employees) whether or not you feel the value in the service they provide. If you even have to hesitate at the answer I’d say it’s time to consider your options.