6 Things to Ask Your Insurance Broker Before Renewing

By Brian Ancell

Sep. 26, 2017

Employee health benefits renewal season is upon us, and you know what that means: It’s time to think about your company’s health and benefits coverage offering. And you’re likely not looking forward to it.

Creating plans that have a meaningful impact on employees’ health can be a tough task, especially when few employees truly understand the value of their benefits package and only 52 percent say they are happy with them. But health benefits coverage is one of a company’s biggest investments, easily reaching as much as 30 percent or more of overall employee compensation, so taking the time to evaluate your strategy is important.

In an increasingly competitive environment, your health benefit plan needs to be flexible enough to meet the needs of employees across multiple generations, while also simplifying administration and controlling premium increases. Surprisingly, the solution isn’t as complex (or costly) as you’d think. You can achieve this by simply rethinking your plan design and picking the right broker.

Today’s workforce expects more from their employers and benefits. Shouldn’t you expect more from your benefits broker? Start by asking your broker these six questions.

  • What does the digital experience look like?

Services like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime have infused expectations of digital simplicity, choice and instantaneous delivery into our DNA. These expectations include our health benefits. In fact, 84 percent of people would rather digitally access and interact with their health insurance if given the option. This is an area where many insurance providers fall short, still requiring faxed or mail-in forms or expecting people to hold for 30 minutes to get a single question answered. Talk to your broker about end-to-end, instant and integrated digital options. A digital experience means that all the tools for evaluating, selecting and enrolling are available online, and information such as up-to-date balances is easily accessible. Check with your broker to find an option that works with your existing HR and payroll systems.

  • How much of my benefits spend is really providing value to my employees?

From the Insurance 101 file: Some 80 percent of the dollars invested in insurance reaches only 20 percent of the people. To some degree this is what you want. You want your insurance to cover people who need catastrophic or high-risk care, however there’s a point at which you’re providing benefits that really aren’t meeting the needs of your entire population. Check how much of their allocation your team has actually spent and what your expected premium increase is. Get your broker to understand the demographics of your workforce population (i.e. age, the composition, the types of services they value, etc.) so you can build your employee benefits strategy around that.

  • How can I create a plan that is flexible enough to appeal to employees of all ages?

People want the same flexibility from their health care coverage that they’ve come to expect in all other aspects of their lives. In fact, 83 percent of employees view choice in their health benefits as an advantage. Before renewing, figure out how much your employees are spending out of pocket and how this can be reduced. This reduction may actually mean less insurance. A lot of the time the out-of-pocket expense has nothing to do with the actual insurance costs. For example, a young millennial may be paying for things like massages or gym memberships out of pocket because their insurance just doesn’t cover it. By switching to a higher deductible but offering a health spending account or lifestyle spending account, you would actually reduce their total out-of-pocket spend. Discuss with your broker ways to incorporate this type of plan personalization.

  • How can I incorporate preventative health coverage into my plan?

With up to 75 percent of health care costs associated with chronic disease being preventable, not having the right programs in place means that you may be overspending and getting far less value from your investment. Ask your broker what opportunities can help you encourage a healthy lifestyle. Today’s workforce approaches health holistically, it’s not only physical, but also mental, social and financial. They expect a different level of support than prior generations have. Consider integrating supplemental health coverage like fitness reimbursement and stress management to your plan.

  • Is onboarding and communication support available with this benefits plan?

With more than half of employees saying they would like help from employers when choosing a health plan, it’s no surprise that HR teams spend a lot of their time guiding employees on benefit-related questions. Ask your broker if the proposed plan includes on-site roll-out and enrollment and what the ongoing customer support system looks like. 

  • Can we trust you to be a partner in setting up our company for success?

Before renewing, consider what partnership and commitment your broker is bringing to you as an employer. The goal of a great broker should be to really understand your company’s needs and goals, put those goals before their own, and be a partner that participates proactively to help solve business problems in a meaningful way. The process for a Jan. 1 renewal date should not start in September or October, it should start midyear. You need enough time to strategically think about what you want to do with your benefit plan and how to get employees ready for any changes you want to make.

With the right broker partner the renewal process doesn’t need to be stressful. Take this opportunity to rethink your plan design and look at the cost effectiveness of your offering — you should expect real value for the dollars spent. Embrace technology and push your broker to have a meaningful impact on health and well-being.

Brian Ancell is U.S. president at employee benefits company League Inc. Comment below or email

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