The term “consultant” is often thrown around and can be attached to just about any profession in today’s world. This holds true for the employee benefits industry, where employee benefits consultant and broker are often used interchangeably.
However, if working with a true consultant, your organization should experience a noticeable difference that will change the way your organization manages its benefits program and ultimately improve its business outcomes.
A traditional benefits broker can usually be considered more transactional and sells (or brokers) products on behalf of insurance carriers.
The broker can often be considered an extension of the insurance carrier’s sales force.
The services they provide are typically focused around the renewal, or new sale of a product and often tails off once that renewal is completed. Brokers tend to be more interested on selling a product and less focused on how that product may impact or fit within the group that is purchasing that benefit for their employees.
A true benefits consultant will partner with an organization to obtain an in-depth understanding of your business and help you craft an employee benefit strategy tailored to your needs. Once you develop a strategy, they will work with you to design, implement and manage your plan throughout the year.
Benefit consulting firms will provide the traditional brokerage services of shopping for products and evaluating different plan designs and carriers, however then make recommendations as to which plans to implement based upon their experience with the marketplace and the aforementioned strategy.
To help organizations carry out their benefit strategy, a Benefit Consulting firm will often provide comprehensive support and tools in the following areas:
- Underwriting and Risk management to facilitate effective plan analysis and allow you to make informed decisions;
- Compliance Officers to educate you on benefit regulations including PPACA, COBRA, HIPAA, ERISA and the areas of tax code that impact employee benefits and to work with you to identify potential concerns and make recommendations to maintain compliance;
- Service teams to support ongoing billing, claims, and administrative issues;
- Communications group to develop tools and programs designed to illustrate the value of your benefit program and build its perception with your employees;
- Health Management team to promote and oversee utilization, case, and disease management as well as wellness programs and health initiatives designed to help reduce claims costs.
Working with a Benefits Consultant who has these tools available to support your organization will allow you to maximize your organization’s benefit dollars.
Rob Krieg, JD, CEBS
Principal, Health & Welfare Benefits Consultant