Preparing for Client Renewals
From CalBroker Magazine
The Group benefit brokers we spoke with know how important it is to prepare for their client renewals. Preparation can make a huge difference when working with clients. Business owners especially look for a professional review of the current coverage and costs and appreciate a solid fact-based presentation of all the options they have to make changes if needed to improve their benefit package.
While the renewals come throughout the year, the majority of group renewals occur in the fourth quarter. When you have several groups, planning becomes even more significant.
This article outlines key points to address when preparing and performing your group renewals. Look for follow-up articles in August and September as we will have carriers and general agencies provide input on these best practices as well.
According to our review, many brokers begin the renewal process as soon as rates are released by the carriers. This is the earliest quotes are available. In an ideal scenario, brokers will stay in contact throughout the year with their clients, “checking in” so info is collected informally and formal feedback can be gathered about how the coverage is working. Since the broker’s calls are proactive, the information gleaned often is a balance of positive or “have not heard anything” mixed in with some employee issues. Many of these problems are addressed when a broker is contacted and they respond to issues. Best to be proactive when possible.
Launch formal communication four months prior
One suggestion we learned was to contact clients four months before renewal in a formal approach to collect feedback on the benefits. Some find a confidential survey works well. When employees complete the survey and return the information, the feedback can help uncover issues and lead to greater satisfaction. The employees have the right to confidentiality. It is the broker’s job to protect feedback and help the employer avoid the risk of seeing confidential information. Health insurance professionals represent the employer, but also must protect sensitive employee information — a tough, but necessary, balancing act.
Group Benefits Renewal Tips:
1. LISTEN for issues: Have a brief conversation (can be via email) with the group owner/admin four months prior to the renewal date to ascertain:
- how benefits have worked for the employees
- employer’s goal in offering benefits
- how the year been for the business.
- request for a census update.
GOAL: Get to know or get a refresh of what benefits your client groups are looking for and use this as your guide to help narrow down the many options out there.
2: DISCOVER: Offer to conduct an employee survey to gauge satisfaction with provider access and coverage.
GOAL: Address employee needs and uncover issues
3. QUOTE all pertinent available MEDICAL plans.
- It often seems there are too many options to present them all, but better to safe than sorry by leaving out possible choices.
- Address Cobra, HR, and Payroll issues within your quoting process
- Identify interest in PEO or other solutions you may know about but do not cover unless requested.
GOAL: Get to know all the quoted carriers and their networks so you can tailor the plan options to the employees.
4. QUOTE VOLUNTARY BENEFIT PLANS
- Look for options to add or enhance dental, vision and other value add benefits.
- Let the employer know that most of these benefits can be offered at a cost to the employees cost, and will strengthen the benefits package, increasing employee satisfaction.
5. PRESENT: Summary of the medical plan comparisons
- Generally, at least three carrier options are a must to demonstrate you have done your job. Give the client a chance to select among them. Price, networks and coverage are three key areas to focus on.
- Any non-traditional options need to be explained so consider bringing representatives with you to go over the details.
6. CONFIRM FINAL DECISION in writing.
- Get decision maker buy in verbally and in writing (email confirmation works)
- Make sure to note any questions or concerns which you have addressed in both the verbal and written form as they may come back to you later.
- Renewing your group is huge and is not over until the employees complete their open enrollment and you provide your client with the reconciled bill to use for payroll deductions.
7. THE PERFECT ENROLLMENT takes preparation
- Build new enrollment packets and focus on education.
- Include all of the carrier information they need pre and post enrollment.
- Provide a reconciliation report that shows each enrolling employee, plan selected, monthly cost, and payroll deduction amount.
- Provide appreciation goodies for the employees and the decision maker.
Next month we will survey carriers and general agencies for their input on the Open Enrollment steps outlined above.