Technology is a part of every aspect of our lives. From video conferencing to video games, we all touch technology in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, in the Employee Benefits space, technology has always been very far behind the other areas of our lives. In my over 15 years of working in the Employee Benefits field, I want to really lay out the issues and benefits of the systems I have personally experienced over the years.
When I was 17 years old, I learned HTML and made several of my own websites. I also learned how to install and edit various content management systems like WordPress for example. In high school and when I was out of college, I had the opportunity to work at my dad’s Farmers Insurance agency. Farmers had their own proprietary systems for managing their insurance programs. You would imagine they would being such a giant in the industry. But most Insurance Brokers did not have this kind of technology. In fact, I was hired at Regional Employee Benefits Council because they needed someone who knew how to make them a website who also had insurance knowledge. These were not common skills together.
After I completed the website for REBC, I began to delve more into the processing of the Employee Benefits paperwork. Back then, all the health insurance carriers required you to fax in paper applications. The process was:
- Print out a stack of paperwork including plan designs and blank applications
- Have employees complete all the paperwork and turn it in
- Review the applications for missing items
- Request missing items and wait for the responses
- Fill in the missing information on the applications
- Fax in the paperwork to the carriers
- Call the carriers a week later to verify if paperwork had been processed.
Roughly, this was the process and some companies are still doing this process today.
I started to figure out ways to make our office paperless while helping our schools to enroll in their benefits a little easier. It all started with a dental pool we created. I was able to create an online form for the school to simply type in their employee’s information. We then took that data and submitted it to the dental carrier electronically. This was the start to a whole new way of doing employee benefits, electronically.
Fast forward several years and systems started becoming more popular. However, these systems were designed primarily for very large employers. One system in particular took the small business industry by storm and became very popular very quickly. This company was Zenefits. This was a software company who was providing their BenAdmin system to employers for no cost as long as they were the broker on the Employee Benefits. This was a great way for employers to save time and the hassle of having to deal with paper applications. But in reality, there was no real connectivity to anywhere in the background. You had Zenefits employees manually processing enrollments and the software was more of just a user front end with mice running in a wheel in the background.
Plus, when you turn over your benefits and insurance to software people, you no longer are getting that experienced insurance consultant to help you navigate the ins and out of the industry. So the Zenefits model failed quickly and up popped more software companies including payroll companies that were now trying to get in on the action. I really love the idea of payroll integrated with the BenAdmin system. It makes doing your ACA reporting so much less of a hassle and it also saves your HR department some time with not having to enter data in 2 systems. However, a company like ADP are experts in Payroll, not in Insurance. When it comes to those hairy claims that need to be unraveled, you are not going to get much assistance for you and your employees.
Today there are many solutions for BenAdmin systems. The system that is right for your company is going to heavily depend on the benefit plans your company provides. In the school and public agency market, most of these entities are in some sort of a pool. The pools have their own rules and their own ways to enroll in benefits. I am going to give you some examples of the systems you can use for a variety of programs.
Small Group Plans (Under 100 employees) – These plans are typically aged based and the rates are published with the state for each health carrier. Many of the smaller charter schools I work with are in these types of plans. Depending on which carriers you offer your staff, the options of enrollment systems are very limited. Most small group Insurance Brokers provide their clients a system called EaseCentral. This system is unique in the fact that it populates the paper applications with the enrollment data and the employees can sign these applications electronically. However, the downside is the Employer or Broker must download the completed applications from the system and submit these forms to the carriers for processing. Some carriers allow Employers to key in the enrollments via their websites, but some carriers do not have this capability at all.
CharterLife – This is an example of one of the Charter School Benefits Trusts for charter schools. Anyone that enrolls in their program must use their own proprietary system to submit enrollments. I’ve had charter schools enroll into this program using their system and it’s very simple and easy to use and employees are in the carrier’s systems within one week of enrolling. The downside is, if you don’t have all of your plans and programs through CharterLife, you must use two systems to enroll in your benefits or use paper applications for part of your enrollment process.
CALPERS – Many public agencies and school districts get their medical benefits through CalPERS. However, CalPERS only offers medical insurance. The dental, vision, life and voluntary benefits must be obtained elsewhere. One of the only BenAdmin systems that will download enrollment data to CalPERS is BenefitBridge. This is a proprietary BenAdmin system developed by Keenan & Associates, the company I work for. Schools can enroll in medical through CalPERS, Delta, VSP, and any other insurance carriers in one system. BenefitBridge then transmits enrollment data to the various entities. Keenan also has many other JPAs and Trusts that we manage where the enrollment data must be sent through BenefitBridge. This is very similar to the CharterLife Trust I was just previously speaking about.
I can continue to give you additional examples of programs and their BenAdmin systems, but which system your school needs is dependent on the programs you are in. Many schools are stuck in their programs for one reason or another. If you want to discuss your school’s specific situation, I would be happy to help you iron out needs. Please contact me at (760) 622-6080 or by using my Contact Form. You may also contact me through any of my social media accounts.