You're paying more for benefits than you know Featured

9:51am EDT January 26, 2005
The price tag on benefits packages skims more from employers' bottom lines each year.

Premiums continue to climb, and companies dedicate significant time, money and human resources to provide employees and their families with health insurance. Employers continue to pay more than they realize for a number of reasons, chief among them that many business owners don't work with a benefits services broker.

Employer benefits

A good benefits services broker acts as a direct insurance advocate, an aggressive benefits partner that can leverage experience and clout for more than just great rates. Insurance carriers and benefit plans are loaded with loopholes and complicated clauses and faults that cost employers dollars.

According to an industry billing study, 3 percent to 4 percent of total premium costs are wasted due to incorrect billing. Carriers overcharge companies, or worse, charge for employees who are no longer employed.

Employers don't realize that they are writing checks that are too large. Benefits services brokers can streamline paperwork and help HR personnel manage benefits plans effectively by assisting in services such as billing consolidation and reconciliation.

Minor paperwork mistakes can morph into major liability issues that cost companies thousands of dollars in court -- another indirect expense. Employers shoulder far too many responsibilities to keep track of legal logistics.

In fact, many employers overlook legal issues simply because they do not understand laws such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Designed to reduce industry inefficiencies and fraud, the legislation also places parameters on business owners' hiring (and firing) decisions.

For example, if an owner opts to release an employee and knows about the worker's extensive medical costs, the employer could be held liable. An employer is not permitted to fire an employee knowing that person might be responsible for high insurance claims.

A broker can ensure that employers know the rules and are following regulations in order to avoid potential lawsuits. Penalties are serious for employers who neglect personnel policies or paperwork concerning insurance. In the worst case scenarios, CEO and HR managers can wind up behind bars.

Industry lingo and complicated plan provisions create confusion and stress for employees, as well, which ultimately contributes to the cost. A benefits services broker can run interference for employees.

Employee benefits

Employee productivity, retention and satisfaction ride on a business owner's ability to provide workers with an effective benefits program. Companies lose worker productivity every day because of ineffective benefits programs.

Having to hold on 800 numbers and waiting for return phone calls from claims representatives waste an employee's valuable work time. When employees are forced to resolve benefits issues in an inefficient administrative process, employers pay the price.

When a benefits services broker acts as an employee advocate, it alleviates employees' stress and delivers value to a company's bottom line by saving workers time. For example, when employees turn to HR personnel to help solve insurance snafus, complicated claims paperwork can bog down the department.

HR departments often work with multiple carriers, thereby further complicating the administrative process with redundant activities that consume time and, ultimately, money.

The bottom line is that efficiency, protection and employee satisfaction can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Effective insurance services brokers design and implement creative solutions that pay off for employers.

Eric Raymond, CLU, is founder and CEO of Corporate Synergies Group Inc., a full-service employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm in the Philadelphia region. He is a frequent guest speaker at insurance and HR conferences and serves on the board of directors of Philadelphia Trust Corp. and Albert Einstein Medical Center. For more information on what benefits service brokers offer, go to www.corpsyn.com or call Corporate Synergies at (877) 426-7779.