Five Questions to Ask Your Broker

Renewal season for many employers is in the fall, so I thought I’d suggest a few questions readers could ask their benefits brokers as they move into their own renewal cycle.

Why haven’t I heard from you yet?

If you have 50 or more eligible employees, your broker should have set up a mid year meeting to understand your goals for the upcoming renewal cycle, offer insights into current trends in the industry, and set up a timeline that will lay out a comfortable and organized renewal and open enrollment process.  These meetings are really valuable, and I’m amazed at how infrequently they happen.  I wrote about some extreme examples of this lack of attention in a blog post last year:

Even if you don’t feel that you need a mid-year meeting, if you have more than 50 eligible employees, most of the insurance companies will try to get your renewal to you early if you ask in advance.

How can you make our enrollment and education process easier this year?

One way to improve your process as noted above is to have a plan and a timeline to ensure employees have enough time to understand their options and make informed decisions.  Beyond that, technology is taking on an increased role with the enrollment and education process for employers of all sizes.  Many brokerage firms, payroll companies, and voluntary benefits companies are able to provide enrollment and education technology at little or no cost to the employers, dramatically improving the process for employees, eliminating a ton of paper, and reducing HR headaches.  If you’d like to read more, here’s a link to another post I did in January on this topic:

How do I know if we’re compliant with all of the legislation surrounding employee benefits?

Most benefits advisory firms have tools that can help employers with their compliance needs.  Here’s a question I ask fairly often:  “Do you know what you don’t know?”  Of course, the question is a bit rhetorical, but it does make people think.  You can’t know what you don’t know, but you should be able to count on your advisor to teach you what you don’t know.

Are there creative solutions that we haven’t explored to help us contain cost and improve the quality of care for our employees and their families?

Whether or not a solution is “creative” is in the eye of the beholder.  If you’ve had a fully insured HMO plan with fairly low deductibles for years, layering in a higher deductible plan with an HRA or HSA might be a creative solution for you.  Most employers are years past this solution, however, so what else is out there?  I’ve written several posts on some of these solutions over the past months, but here are a couple that might be interesting to you:

Are you aware of what’s happening with my business and how our benefits plans can impact our business goals?

It’s all too common for a broker to assume that you just want the same things this year as you did last year, hopefully for not too much more money.  Advisors that dig deeper to discover underlying business needs and help you design a benefits plan that supports those needs take the relationship to a completely different level.

I had a conversation last week with a client who got a pretty gentle renewal for their health plan.  In the absence of additional conversation, it appeared that this would be an easy renewal:  no other carriers were competitive, and the rates were only going up 3%.  After digging a bit deeper, I came to understand a cash flow issue had developed since the previous renewal, and the business goal was to reduce cost wherever possible.  That conversation took the discussion in completely different direction, and we’re now implementing some cost containment measures that will support the overarching business goals.

If you would ever like to chat about your own business goals or your challenges as you approach your own renewal season, feel free to call us at (866) 724-0008 or click the link below.


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