In the third post in our three-part series, Broker Breakthroughs, benefits brokers and consultants will learn how to shine when helping a client make important benefits administration technology transitions—from properly collecting the organization’s technology needs up front to making sure that technology questions specific to Health Savings Account (HSA) administration aren’t overlooked.
[Part 1, Cut Clients’ Costs and Add Value with HSA Programs, and Part 2, How to Improve Enrollment in Client HDHPs & HSAs, are also now available on this blog.]
Modern brokers and consultants are expected to present clients with benefits programs that meets employees’ needs, help HR with recruiting and retaining top talent, and still save the company’s bottom line.
That’s a big job. But there’s a tool in your benefits toolbox that – when used the right way – is perfectly suited for getting it done: the Health Savings Accounts (HSA).
The best practices—“broker breakthroughs”—presented in this blog series will help you further refine your approach to becoming indispensable in the eyes of your clients as you guide them to smart, cost-saving decisions through High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs), HSAs, and beyond.
Broker Challenge: Need to Deliver Technology Recommendations That Will Reduce Clients’ Costs
As your clients evolve with emerging technologies, are you evolving with them?
HR technology is not just on the rise; it’s running rampant. More than $1 billion was invested in HR tech companies in the last year alone.
Investments are driven not only by a whole new influx of start-ups and consistent progression from seasoned industry players, but employers’ willingness to spend…in order to save.
A recent McKinsey & Company study shows businesses deploying the latest in digital HR innovations could increase output by up to 9% and reduce employee-related costs by up to 7%.
In complementary fashion, another study reports that 50% of employers have designated “expanding benefits technology” as a top strategy to address their business challenges, which range from controlling benefits-related costs to ensuring compliance.
To top it all off, the most important reason employers are looking for technology is to “reduce costs”—cited by 36% of the 1,400+ employers participating in the study—followed closely by “better control/management of data” (35%) and “reduced staff time/resources to administer benefits” (32%).
Broker Breakthrough: Use Technology Transitions to Reinforce Your Agency’s Value
The broker of the future is thinking today about better ways of integrating themselves into the client’s decision-making process long before the technical integration.
From a client cost-savings measure, it pays off for brokers to familiarize themselves with the technology playing out today, those driving the innovations (whether individuals, vendors, or partners), and the next generation of know-how that’s right around the corner.
In terms of the client’s decision-making process involving any technological updates or enhancements, benefits administration is just one piece of the HR puzzle, albeit a complex piece—one that does not plug in quickly and typically takes longer to solve for.
Consequently, benefits teams are under tremendous pressure to make critical decisions, often with minimal internal guidance or support to fully understand the options available to them. Nor do internal IT resources fully understand a benefit team’s needs, either.
Add to this the pressure around time and resources needed to plan for open enrollment, and you have a recipe for additional unwelcomed stress.
This is where you come into play and save the day.
Meeting and Exceeding Clients’ Expectations
Over one quarter of employers express that their broker should have primary duties when it comes to researching and evaluating possible technology solutions, according to a LIMRA survey.
Are your clients already looking to you as a digital problem solver, or could you be introducing yourself as such to help alleviate these burdens and enrich your existing relationships/build more business?
Today’s broker is being looked to in ways that transcend traditional advisory roles. The days of antiquated, paper-based procedures are quickly dissipating, and as long as the ACA reigns, so does the room for error around complicated codes and calculations.
It is wise to eradicate the potential for human error and subsequent non-compliance fines with any type of manual number crunching currently in play.
True, manual processes are still very much a part of the broker spectrum (a good time to evaluate where you are in this mix); but to become recognized as a leading-edge advisor, you will need to align with forward-thinking clients and advance your knowledge of trusted tools and platforms to help guide them down a progressive path to cost-effective and employer/employee-efficient technology transformation.
Understanding Clients’ Technology Needs
As you work to uncover the options available in determining the best tech fit for your clients, it’s best to start out by studying a broad range of platforms across all business sizes.
From there, try to whittle down the options to three to five viable selections. Learn them inside-out and be ready to present them as recommendations to your clients as if you built them yourself.
But not too quick.
Equally important, you must understand a client’s needs and pains inside out. Becoming a student of their current situation and current infrastructure is imperative in molding your assessment.
Here are some questions to consider in understanding the client’s needs to ultimately formalize your recommendation:
- What is the budget and, with respect to this allocation, what factors are being accounted for in calculating the overall ROI to justify the spend on a health care technology of choice?
- How involved is the C-Suite—expressly your client’s chief financial officer—in the planning and purchasing decisions? (A recent ConnectYourCare survey of benefits personnel found that 26% of companies’ CFOs will serve in an “empowerment” role, providing executive guidance and strategy, as opposed to full, hands-on involvement in directly evaluating vendors and pricing.)
- How will the health care technology of choice adapt and behave within an existing HR infrastructure? Will it play nice with others, like onboarding and payroll components, or will it be replacing all existing infrastructure as a part of a complete HR overhaul?
- Will it streamline the employee experience to the point where they would welcome the change? Or will it add layers of complexity and frustration with additional touchpoints and logins across disparate systems?
- How about any planned customization—will it truly be a convenience, or will it just create unintended back-end headaches?
- And are we talking total digital transformation of manual/paper-based enrollment processes? (A serious consideration, as over one in three companies are not using technology and are currently looking for a platform.)
HSA Administration Technology Considerations
Also be sure that the tax-advantaged, lower-cost HDHP/HSA plan options are top of mind in the technology integration conversation, particularly when vendor partners are being considered for administration of a program.
There are numerous technology questions specific to HSA administration that advisors should consider before making a vendor recommendation.
Examples of HSA-related tech questions to ask:
- Does the administrator own their HSA platform with turnkey capabilities, or is it dependent upon another party’s technology to run its HSA program?
- Can the administrator provide accelerated access to HSA contributions? (See our previous post in this series for more on that.)
- Is the HSA provider investing in platform enhancements to improve the user experience for employees, employers, and brokers? When was the platform capabilities and/or its user interface last updated?
- What reporting features are provided by the administrator to you and your client? Do you anticipate being able to get the data you need easily?
- Can features be turned on or off at the health plan and/or employer group level?
- What quality assurance processes are in place to ensure technology enhancements are implemented without errors?
- What are the HSA provider’s protocols for file exchange (eligibility, claims, contributions, etc.)?
- How does the administrator protect sensitive information?
- Is the HSA provider you are choosing carrier agnostic? What is their approach to carrier relationships and integrations?
Taking the time to think through the answers to those and similar questions before making an HSA vendor recommendation could potentially save you, your clients, and their employees from headaches down the road.
For example, on average, employers change carriers every one and a half to two years. If you choose an HSA provider that is only connected to the current carrier, you will more than likely have to move the accounts to a new custodian when the employer elects a new carrier.
Scenarios like that add to your workload as you facilitate an already-daunting transition while increasing the chances of client or end user dissatisfaction.
Re-evaluating HSA administrators through a technology lens now can thus help you reduce the likelihood of straining a client relationship during major projects in the future or by delivering an underwhelming HSA.
Finally, keep in mind when helping a client make technology changes (and discussing the costs of those changes) that this is an opportune time to reinforce that HSA offerings should be at the forefront when evaluating all online enrollment tools and benefits administration platforms under consideration.
In positioning the overall value of an HSA program, ensure your clients know that a good portion of their benefits tech spend and administrative changes could be counterbalanced by savings realized through greater HSA awareness and enrollment.
When recommending an HSA administrator to your client, you want to be thinking about the overall breadth of experience the potential partner is bringing to the table.
- Does the administrator control their HSA platform’s roadmap? If they don’t own the platform, they’re likely beholden to another party’s technology plans.
- Does the administrator have direct industry knowledge?
- Is it on the forefront of compliance and lobbying efforts, with eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, and an influential voice, in response?
- Is its HSA offering positioned as a flagship solution, or more of a secondary (if not tertiary) benefit offering in its portfolio?
Building a long-term relationship is essential to the success of your client’s HSA strategy. As such, you want to align them with a partner that checks all of the boxes above.
In addition, the devil can be in the details, so a few more things to consider in uncovering all potential costs:
- Does the partner you are recommending have control over participant banking fees? For example, some HSA administrators may charge behavioral-related fees tied to the issuance of paper statements, which participants can easily opt out of.
- Are there any other administrative fees to be aware of?
- Also, is the partner you are choosing carrier agnostic?
Account moves often can be disruptive to your clients and their employees, and may come at a price. Standard industry transfer fees range from $15 to $25 per account.
In addition, there is action required by each employee, and a blackout period during which they cannot access to their funds.
These are good reasons to recommend an HSA partner that maintains proper carrier relationships for ease of transition and little to no disruption during the process.
Finally, in positioning the overall value of an HSA program, ensure your clients know that a good portion of their benefits tech spend and administrative changes could be counterbalanced by savings realized through greater HSA awareness and enrollment.
This is an opportune time to reinforce that HSA offerings should be at the forefront of all online enrollment tools and benefits administration platforms under consideration—adorned by powerful communications and planning tools sure to bolster employees’ understanding of account options, so that they, too, can capitalize on savings opportunities.
Connect with the Author
What approach have you taken to make sure your client selects the right benefits administration technology? What are the top things you look at when evaluating platforms? Let me know on LinkedIn!