3 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2009

Patty Starr is senior director of health insurance and benefits for the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) and has more than a decade of experience in health insurance product development. Her focus has been developing, improving access of and selling products targeted toward individuals and small business owners. Starr was formerly president and founder of The Ark Individual Insurance Brokerage, a brokerage dedicated to helping individuals and small business owners.

Q. What should employers ask their broker when determining what health plans fit their company?

Every company uses benefits differently. A company needs to have an overall goal as to what they’re trying to accomplish with their benefits package. Am I offering benefits to attract employees? What kind of affect does the cost of the package have on my overall business model and my overall goals? Once they have that, I think they need to really find out how consistent that is maybe with the marketplace.

Q. How do you find out what your competitors are offering?

It usually takes some hunting. They can find out sometimes from different employees they’re trying to recruit. A lot of them know each other — the owners know each other — so they’ll just come straight out and have a conversation around it. Usually they come into (broker) meetings with that information.

Q. What advice do you have on trying to renegotiate for a lower price?

It’s really important for a group to really know the details behind how their renewal necessarily was created. It’s a lot easier for large companies to get that data than small companies. Insurance really is your claims plus an administrative fee. If you’re not performing or if there’s a lot of usage, it’s harder to negotiate than somebody who doesn’t have as many claims or as much history or history has changed over time. The more you’re able to present at the table with the insurance carrier or the broker saying that these are changes in my population, these are changes in behavior, in my population, it’s going to help you renegotiate your policy and your premium.