Choose The Right Ben Admin Platform
Here are four suggestions for steps to take in choosing the right benefit admin system:
1. Make sure it is not attached to a carrier.
This is a GA talking now. At first I wanted to roll out our own exclusive system that you would have access to for free when writing business with us. I now realize that model will be extinct in a few short years. As you grow into this space you're going to need to write whatever carrier on your chosen system. It won't work to have five cases with Blue Cross' system then another three with Metlife's system and another four with Priority Health. I guess it will work but it's not the most efficient. Spend the money, find a partner, get really good at that one partner and use the heck out of it.
We'll work on making it easy to do business with us on the back end.
2. Make sure it does what they all should do.
HR Onboarding--it should allow your groups the ability for new hires to complete their W2's, I9's, employee information, etc. This is no brainer stuff but some of the platforms just don't do it. The good ones allow for electronic signatures then communicate all the information to payroll. Seamless for your clients. Good information for you to have on eligible employees.
Benefit Admin Systems---employees should be able to shop for and select plans online. Some are more robust than others but the member should be able to systematically see her benefits and purchase voluntary.
Some systems will connect on a feed. That costs more. Some will autocomplete excel spreadsheets for enrollment. Others actually auto fill an enrollment form. Pretty awesome. Still someone has to pull the information down and get it to the cariers. It's still a step. The feeds are the best but they take a long time and may be too costly to do for every case. You should choose one with the capability however.
Payroll connectivity--this is becoming more of a must now with Zenefits adding their own payroll company. Larger cases (over 100 lives) require it.
ACA tracking--must have for groups above 50. Non negotiable.
HR Hotlines--I think this is a nice feature especially in the small cases where they may need to ask questions from time to time about compliance, HR issues. It's a sticky type thing and a nice value add for you.
Connection to your CRM--some of the systems are selling the group benefit admin system in connection with an agency management system. This may become more and more of a big deal. In a perfect world it would be great if all you and your staff's work were done on the benefit and agency management system so all the data is housed in one place. You could turn information on and off for certain users so your group couldn't see all the quoting and customer service notes.
Quoting--the systems coming out now have the capabilty to run quotes off current census material. The ACA has pushed small market group medical to a very static area rate with member level rating so that is very easy to do for the systems. It is an ease factor for you going forward. There may be some liability there to consider however.
3. Cost--how much should you be paying for this thing?
The new companies seem to want to move you to the subscription status versus a PEPM. Employee Navigator does this. EaseCentral starts at $250 per month and that will get you 1000 lives on the system. But then they charge for the HR Onboarding and Hotlines. $199 monthly and $30 bucks a case respectively. You can do the ACA tracking at .50 PEPM and you can connect to a payroll vendor at $1.00 PEPM. So it all adds up. Others will charge you $7 to $8 PEPM to do all of that. When I bottom line it for small to mid size agencies, be prepared to spend $500 to $750 per month on the system. And you will have sweat costs into that too from you or your staff.
If that shocks or scares you, remember you don't have to do it for free. Zenefits says it's free but they charge for the ACA tracking and some of the payroll capabilities. Half their income comes from fees. Free doesn't always equate to value. I'd say if you charged your clients $2.00 PEPM for the system with the HR Onboarding and Payroll connectivity, that would be one heck of a value.
Or maybe instead of charging your clients, you simply add voluntary products. All the studies have shown employees want more choice. The benefit admin system allows you to roll out products they want and generate more revenue to pay for your investment.
4. What's the support? Am I on my own here?
Most systems offer training to teach you or your staff how to build and administer the cases. But once they set you free, you are on your own. The carrier based systems help a bit more but you lose some control. We at Benefit Profiles are working to develop ways we can support you in the build out and back end administration. More to come on that!
5. Where do I start?
Talk to me! I've done quite a lot of research and I can steer you in the right direction. We do have a partner we like we hope would be a nice fit.