5 Steps to Solving the Health Insurance Renewal Puzzle for your Business

Columbus Chamber
The Columbus Chamber provides connections, resources and solutions that help small businesses and Fortune 500 enterprises grow Central Ohio's economy.

Member Insights by Kyle Brett, Ohio Benefits & Insurance Group

It is that time of year again. No, not a vacation to your favorite sunny beach and a break from constantly checking your inbox full of emails. You just received notification of your company health insurance renewal. It is worse than you thought. 20% this year. For a minute you try to justify this as a positive because last year was 25%. Then you realize there is no way you can absorb this cost for another consecutive year.

Sound familiar? That is because this is a scenario for many businesses who offer an employer sponsored health plan. This challenge can fall onto the business owner, human resource department, finance department, or accounting department. In some companies the same person can wear all of these hats. Newsflash, the renewal doesn’t care about your feelings and it can have a large financial impact to the business and its employees.

Do you want the good news or the bad news? The bad news…in many cases your health insurance plan will renew every 12 months, thus restarting the puzzle. The good news…it doesn’t have to be the same stressful puzzle year after year. There can be a positive light at the end of the renewal tunnel.

A majority of puzzles do not come with instructions. In many cases you are left with having to look at the picture on the box to figure it out. Many businesses are left in a similar position. In a day in age where people look to Google or YouTube for quick self-help answers, information on quality health insurance consulting advice can be scarce. Many even turn to a broker for answers but are left with the same recycled solutions year after year. Our agency road map includes some of these tips below to make the renewal process easier.

Step 1

Develop a renewal checklist

Creating a detailed checklist before or when the renewal comes out can bring a sense of peace of mind. There are things with your plan that should be automatic regardless of the cost of the renewal increase. A few of these include updating your company census (employee/dependent names, dates of birth, zip codes, and coverage status), employer and employee contribution amounts, and status of your compliance documents. If working with a broker you should ask them to provide you with a checklist to help kick off your game plan. By being on the same page year after year it will create a sense of familiarity with the renewal process. At a time when healthcare reform is bringing many changes, any sense of familiarity can be welcomed.

Step 2

Become comfortable with being online

Are you familiar with online medical history questionnaires? If you can answer yes, then you are already becoming more comfortable with working online. If you said no, don’t worry, the process is not intimidating and intended to simplify the health insurance industry. Essentially with one master application, insurance brokers can now capture the health risk for you and your business. The old days of completing multiple paper applications when reviewing quotes is going away. This drastically improves the quoting process. Getting your company more comfortable with being online with their health insurance makes the renewal process go much more smoothly.  If your company is an adopter of going online they can even take this a step further with a benefit administration system. It can assist with on boarding, off boarding, benefit plan selection, benefit plan enrollment, compliance, employee notices, payroll integration, and reporting. This online tool helps you increase productivity, streamline processes, improve communication and save money.

Step 3

Review your budget

How much can your company afford to spend on their healthcare benefits? It is imperative that you can answer this question. By developing a concrete number that your budget can afford will simplify the renewal process. This will help target the type of networks and plan designs you should look for to fit your budget. Pairing this with a real time contribution modeling tool makes this process even easier. By reviewing a side by side comparison of employer to employee dollars against your health insurance premium can help develop a better understanding overall spending. You should make sure the broker you are working with has this capability.

Step 4

Understand the market

Fully Insured, Partially Self-Funded Level Premium, Self-Funded, Captive, Community Rated, and MEWA. Are you familiar with the differences in these plan types? If you cannot confidently say yes, you need to have a review of these options and how they relate to your business. Getting an entire market picture of all available plan types for your company is one of the most critical aspects of a through renewal review. Knowing the pros and cons of each coverage option will go a long way in helping you make the best decision possible. The broker you work with should be able to provide you with all of these options and an understanding of each.

Step 5

Do not forget education

Education of a company health insurance plan is a must for all employees. Being able to provide them with clear and concise educational materials is important. If you offer more than one plan you must help them decide on the best option.  Once a plan is selected helping them understand how to maximize their healthcare dollars should be the next focus. Is there an account associated with the plan (ex. HSA, HRA, or FSA)? If so, helping them understand the ins and outs of that is crucial. Aside from this, understanding when to go to the ER room vs Urgent care and knowing how to search the plan network can also go a long way. Brokers should be involved in the education process during the renewal to help employees have a solid grasp of their plan. They should be able to provide educational handouts, videos, and plan selector survey tools.

Know that every company is different. Some of the determining factors that can affect the amount you pay for health insurance include location, number of employees, age, health risk, plan design, and premium contribution strategy.  Using the 5 steps we outlined above will help organize your game plan and lead you towards the best renewal decision for your business.

Now let’s imagine it is that time of year again. Still not vacation, but time to solve your health insurance puzzle. Except this year it feels different. You are better armed with the tools to make educated, streamlined, and cost effective decisions.

To learn more about our agency approach and how we can help your business contact us at (330) 315-6200, send us an email at info@ohiobig.com , or connect with us on our social media channels. To reach out to a producer with our agency directly you can view their contact information from our “About Us” page.