How benefits technology can make you efficient, competitive and compliant Featured

9:01pm EDT March 31, 2012
How benefits technology can make you efficient, competitive and compliant

The burden of administrating benefits can be overwhelming to a company’s already taxed human resources staff. Someone has to manage benefits enrollment, ensure that employees receive plan information, deal with billing and claims, and keep up with legislative changes and adapt the company’s processes to comply.

It’s a big job, and not all businesses can afford to employ a full-time benefits coordinator who is dedicated to these duties. That’s why benefits technology can be valuable to businesses of all sizes, making all of these administrative processes much simpler.

“Benefits technology can mean anything from a customized benefits portal for a human resource staff to online enrollment capabilities or an internal website for your company,” says Michael Bartolini, vice president, business practice manager, at First Commonwealth Advisors. “There are many ways that companies can use technology to help manage all of the administrative tasks associated with implementing and managing benefits programs.”

Smart Business spoke with Bartolini about how benefits technology can help keep your business efficient, competitive and compliant with the law.

How can benefits technology streamline processes to save a company’s HR staff time?

Many times, the person administrating the company’s benefits might also be handling other functions for the business. As a result, there simply isn’t enough time to properly focus on effectively managing the company’s benefits enrollment, billing, claims management and communications.

Online benefits portal systems can reduce the amount of paperwork and save time through the utilization of ready-made forms and materials. This type of advanced platform can help the company disseminate important information to its employees that drastically improves employee communication.

From the perspective of compliance, legislative updates can be received on a daily or weekly basis so the company stays informed and on top of all of the changes. And enrollments and billing can be processed more efficiently.

Customized portal systems can make the process less burdensome and free up staff to allow them to focus on activities that drive the bottom line.

How can benefits-driven technology keep employers up to date on legislative changes that may impact them?

With health care reform fast approaching, the proposed changes being phased in over the next several years can be overwhelming. Unless a business has someone to diligently follow the requirements of health care reform, it can be very difficult to stay on top of it all. The same goes for changes to retirement benefits, Family and Medical Leave Act, OSHA standards and other federal and state regulations. Sifting through the dense quantity of information on the Department of Labor website and other online sources is an arduous task that takes time away from the business.

Solutions provided through advanced online capabilities can eliminate the difficulties of this research by delivering critical legislative updates to you on a regular basis so your company can ensure compliance and communicate news with employees. It’s critical to have this information at your fingertips to mitigate that risk and prevent information gaps.

What enrollment efficiencies can be gained with an online solution?

Whenever an organization can reduce paperwork, efficiencies are gained. The value of online enrollment functionality is that it virtually eliminates paperwork from the process. This is a big deal, considering that many companies offer four or more benefits plans, such as medical, vision, dental and life insurance. Online enrollment makes it easier for a company to facilitate benefits.

Most important, it changes the mentality of enrolling in benefits because the sheer act of completing online forms causes employees to think more carefully about their coverage and choices. It empowers employees to act more responsibly as health care consumers, which is good thing for all parties involved.

Online enrollment isn’t complicated. User-friendly formats make this technology accessible for people with all levels of expertise. In addition, employees can enroll at home while consulting with family members.

How can a company use technology to communicate benefits more effectively?

Employees have much to gain from benefits technology because they can access information about their plans 24/7 through a company intranet. Beyond enrollment forms and plan information, an intranet site can include wellness education and announcements about health-related events, such as a companywide walking program or a healthy eating seminar.

How can technology simplify billing and claims management?

When managing benefits costs, it’s helpful to have breakdowns by state, location and department to identify trends in claims or premiums that can help you save money down the road. Customized reporting systems capable of providing common billing and expense management data give you the big picture of how benefits are being utilized in your company. Are there specific areas or locations that drive claims and expenses more than others? Is your funding strategy appropriate and is it in line with your expense budget? Are you being properly billed by your insurance carriers?

Taking advantage of such technology can help you make wise choices in the development and management of your benefits program. A tech-savvy benefits consultant can best advise you on how benefits technology can be implemented at your business to improve efficiency and make your company more competitive.

Michael Bartolini is vice president, business practice manager at First Commonwealth Advisors. Reach him at (724) 349-6028 or Michael.Bartolini@fcfins.com.

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