Should Employee Benefits Be “Do it Yourself”?


Cute Caucasian boy examined at the doctor's.

The U.S. healthcare system underwent a major transformation, seemingly overnight, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The change made a lot of people freak out over what it might mean for them. Insurance brokers specifically, it seemed, had become a thing of the past and a lot of technology companies jumped at the opportunity to create benefits marketplaces (private exchanges) where algorithms could do the work that was previously handled by humans. Employee benefits have always been a key pillar of human resources at each company, since most Americans get their health insurance through their employer. Through this shift,  human resources became a little less human and a little more robot yet few of us—employers, employees, or brokers—were actually better off. Employees and HR managers often were left with more questions than answers about their benefits. Why is that?

Isn’t technology supposed to make our lives easier? My team and I spent a while noodling over this, trying to figure out where the pipes had broken, so to speak, and how to make sure that the digitization of employee benefits would bring about a truly better user experience.

Technology has definitely simplified a lot of tedious processes for businesses and individuals alike, and this will continue to progress but in some instances it is not the 360 solution.

Here’s an example: when your taxes are relatively simple, you can do your own filing using online software like TurboTax. You can check your boxes, sign on the dotted line, and move on with your day. However, if you own your own business, for example, or have a rental property, a good accountant can help you save time and money by researching exceptions that will undeniably creep up. He’ll also ensure that you don’t make costly mistakes. An experienced accountant advises you and can give you the peace of mind that, yes, you’re set—while everyone else is tearing their hair out come tax season (hint: if you don’t already have an account, consider asking around for some recommendations…).

Insurance is a lot like doing your taxes: so much fun!

Plans and policies are often muddled with loopholes, exceptions, limitations, and red tape. That’s because individual insurance carriers are akin to separate government entities. And each state is like its own country when it comes to insurance regulations, standards, hospital/doctor networks, and coverage options.

With multiple state governments and government-like entities (insurance carriers), there’s an ever shifting landscape of rules, plan characteristics, what’s accepted, and general rules of engagement. This is why good insurance brokers have thrived, because they, like good accountants, know the ins and outs of these intricacies in the regions where they operate. They’re familiar with tactical strategies you can take to ensure that you and your employees reach the outcome you’re looking for from your benefits and compensation strategy. They end up acting more as advisors than as “brokers”. This saves you from having to spend the time to learn an entire industry to gain the confidence to make the right decisions for your company, your employees, and their families.

Employee benefits shouldn’t be DIY

Recently, a number of technology companies have downplayed the role of experienced brokers, focusing instead on automating benefits and compensation by presenting you with DIY platforms with cookie cutter plans and services that leave a lot more questions unanswered. When you get started, you think “Hey, this is amazing tech automation and I’m saving a ton of time.”, but then at some point you start second-guessing your decisions or how to handle various insurance issues that pop up with your employees because, well, insurance is complicated, and also critical for your employees. So you go back to the old model.

You call up a broker and ask them to help you understand your options because the website or app only showed you the surface of what was going on. Instead of the doomsday scenario everyone predicted for them, savvy brokers took advantage of a huge opportunity to act as strategic advisors. They built their business around healthcare reform expertise and guiding companies through these ever-changing waters. But the story doesn’t end here.

We know that the people who are involved in HR and benefits operations at their companies have a massive impact on their employees lives and the lives of their families. But even for industry veterans, benefits and HR regulations are complicated. So on this blog and with our product, we’re eager to explore ways we can help de-mystify some of the most common benefits and operational challenges that are facing you and by extension, your employees, today. We hope to create a conversation among us—CEOs, VPs of Operations, HR generalists, office managers, and your employees—about how to make benefits and, by extension, work better

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