Employee benefits Featured

8:00pm EDT August 29, 2006
Trying to put together an employee benefits package for a company with 50 employees takes some work. Each worker has his or her own particular needs, and the costs for services continue to soar.

Now imagine putting a package together for a group of 3,000 employees. It can become a complex undertaking.

“We work to find a plan or group of plans that will satisfy the multitude of employees,” says Anne Carney, president of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs in Tampa. “Whether the employees are young or old, married or single, we strive to be able to offer competitive, affordable choices to the employee groups.”

Smart Business talked with Carney about finding the right plans as well as sufficient funding to pay for those plans.

How do you find the right packages for the right employee group?
We work to find planned solutions for our employer groups as well as funding solutions, whether it is fully insured or self-funded or a hybrid in between, where there is some sharing of risk for the cost of the plan.

We also determine who is going to share in the cost of that contract.

How difficult is it to plan benefits for large workforces?
It’s not that difficult. There are a lot of similarities in people; people are all different, of course, but you’ve got single people with one type of needs, married people with another, single moms, single dads, families, etc. In a group, even if you have several thousand employees, you probably have five or six different combinations of types within that group. Demographics such as age, type of business, pay scale and location may change the actual composition of a group, but the basic needs of most employees are comparable.

In many cases, it comes down to not only what kind of coverage they need but what kind of costs as well. People need to be able to afford their health care.

A lot can depend on geographic location. What kind of networks are in a certain area and how far do the participants have to drive to get there? If a population is scattered without much opportunity for communication, maybe a streamlined HMO is best.

How does the whole process get started?
We start by looking at what kind of coverage the workforce has today and how it got to that point. Is it appropriate and is it working? Is it something that evolved from an existing plan that was appropriate four or five years ago? What is the corporate culture? What are the employers’ goals and concerns?

Writing, planning and establishing an appropriate program isn’t done in a vacuum from the overall business enterprise. We have to look at what the business needs and the business strategies are for the next several years: Where is it going?

We look at the overall business strategy and then try and plan for the next two to five years and try and figure out how to get from where the employer is to where it needs and wants to be.

It’s important to look at the funding mechanisms and ask some important questions. Is the current plan fully insured? Has the population grown? Is the benefit package competitive? Is this a time when self-funding may be an option? We look at all of these variables and then examine the variety of plans available and get proposals from all of the entities. Then we analyze which plans, rates and networks are the best fit for that particular employer.

If the plan is more consumer-based and encourages the employees to spend the health care dollars as if they are their own, then we may propose a Health Reimbursement Arrangement or a Health Savings Account.

The impetus for all plans is to make sure the participants understand the drivers of health care costs and how they’re using the plan. Are they going to the doctor for every sniffle or calling a nurse-line and getting their medication over the counter?

How important are wellness plans?
We try to promote wellness in people’s behavior. In most plans you’ll find that 20 percent of the participants drive 80 percent of the costs. If you can keep these people healthier now, then you can prevent them from having to go to the doctor two years down the road. The more we can encourage people to eat healthy and exercise, the better off our health care plans will be when it comes to keeping costs down.

ANNE CARNEY is president of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs in Tampa. Reach her at (813) 289-7996 or anne.carney@hrh.com.