Watch the Webinar: Time for a Captive Checkup?

Most of us stay on top of things like dental cleaning appointments and routine car maintenance without giving it much thought, but we’re afraid a lot of companies aren’t treating their captives the same way. Our team recommends regular “captive check-ups” every few years for a variety of reasons, and have a clear, proven system for taking organizations through this refeasibility process.

Spring Partner and Chief Actuary, Steven Keshner, along with our Senior Actuarial Consultant and property & casualty expert, Peter Johnson, led an educational session on captive optimization through

Captive Optimization

refeasibility studies. With a combined 40 years of experience in the insurance, actuarial and captive industries, the two have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we wouldn’t want you to miss it.

Fill out the form below to view and listen to our webinar, “Time for a Captive Checkup?” which was conducted live in September of 2017. You’ll take away valuable learnings, such as:

  • The importance of refeasibility and the different factors that make it necessary
  • A recommended, step-by-step refeasibility process including suggested strategies, modes of measurement, and how to piece everything together
  • Questions to be answered through your captive check-up
  • Resources for getting started

 

5 Potential Pitfalls of Voluntary Benefits & How to Avoid Them

You already read that Voluntary Benefits Are No Longer Voluntary for Employers. Now it’s time to dig deeper into Voluntary Benefits best practices- program design, what constitutes success when it comes to voluntary benefits and outline tips to prevent an ineffective voluntary program.

The term voluntary benefits was coined long ago when employers fully funded (or significantly subsidized) core benefits and voluntary benefits were an add-on, paid for by the employee through payroll deductions.  As the landscape changed, core benefits evolved to be partially funded by employers and partially funded through payroll deductions. As a result, many benefits became voluntary.

For today’s employees, it’s not as simple as core and voluntary; it’s about choice.  Employees need to balance what limited disposable income they have for all benefits, regardless of what they are labeled. Even still, the concept of core and voluntary resonates with employers as an industry norm, so it’s important to identify ways to avoid common pitfalls of voluntary program implementation:

  1. Think holistically
  2. Don’t forget about ERISA
  3. Consider enrollment options as a critical component in overall design
  4. Remember that education is key
  5. Help employees get the most from their plan

Think Holistically About Voluntary BenefitsVoluntary Benefits Tips

Many employers think offering voluntary benefits is like checking a box – something that can be done quickly and without much deliberation. However, programs without thoughtful preparation are rarely successful in terms of education, enrollment and satisfaction.  Voluntary benefits should be considered an integral part of the overall benefits package.  A strong offering should take into account various factors, including but not limited to:

Current population:

Although a one-size-fits-all approach does not and should not exist, employee demographics can help you pinpoint which products would be most sensible for your collective audience.  Generally speaking,                  those that are starting out in their careers have different priorities than those nearing retirement, and employees falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum will have their own set of benefits needs as                well.  For example, accident insurance is more popular for families than for singles or empty nesters, while student loan repayment is more relevant for those in their 20’s and 30’s than for older employees.

Current benefit offering:

When considered in tandem, voluntary benefits can serve to protect employees and reduce their risk or perceived risk for various physical or financial troubles.  For example, introducing a high deductible                   health plan offering complementary voluntary products (i.e. hospital indemnity, critical illness, accident insurance) can help decrease the financial burden on employees.

Don’t Forget About ERISA Considerations for Voluntary Benefits

Voluntary Benefits Best PracticesVoluntary benefit programs may or may not be subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), depending on how they are structured and supported by the employer.  ERISA provides important protections but can also pose constraints for employers and employees.  Assuming you do not want your voluntary programs to be covered under ERISA, you must be careful to manage enrollment and administration separately from your core benefit programs.  If you would like your voluntary plans to be subject to ERISA, then coordinating administration and enrollment will not be problematic; however, understand the potential impacts.  ERISA compliance and your potential fiduciary duties should never be an afterthought.

Consider Enrollment Options as a Critical Component in Overall Design

Our research affirms that employees better understand the offering and have higher enrollment when they participate in group meetings or individual meetings.  In addition, vendor partners are often willing to offer more competitive pricing and waive enrollment requirements if they can meet with employees directly or send them some type of material in the mail.

While some employers welcome the “free” education and enrollment, others are concerned about aggressive selling or having employees using work hours to meet with potential vendors.  If you think of voluntary benefits as part of your holistic offering, then leveraging work hours will be less of an apprehension when voluntary is an element of your complete attraction and retention tool.

The key is to think about the enrollment process as an essential design component of your voluntary program.  Ensure that decisions surrounding enrollment fit with the overall program strategy and make sense for your population.  Providing comprehensive enrollment with core and voluntary may be a best practice for your group.  This allows employees to make coordinated decisions regarding their contributions and programs.  It also enables you to offer complementary plans for optimal plan selection.  While that structure works for some, other employers feel employees have too many decisions to make during annual enrollment and prefer to stagger voluntary enrollment to allow more time for thoughtful decision making. There’s no right or wrong answer – each company and population is different.

Remember that Education is Important

Decision support tools have continued to evolve, providing employees with strong advocacy for traditional plans and voluntary benefits alike.  Although voluntary benefits are designed to be less complex and easier to understand, for some employees the language is new.  Summarizing the program(s) and sharing scenarios to help employees understand the products is often the best way to introduce a new plan.Voluntary Benefits Enrollment

Regardless of who funds the program, as the employer it is important that you educate your employees on the available offering.  Employees should not elect a benefit they do not understand and employers should not offer benefits that are not valued by employees, or that employers themselves cannot explain effectively.  Every dollar spent on voluntary benefits is money your employees are not spending on other necessities like monthly bills, student debt, groceries, emergency savings, or even 401k contributions; make sure they are knowledgeable about what they are buying and ensure that it’s a competitive product in the market.

Education can be facilitated in many ways including traditional employee meetings, brochures, benefit fairs, and onsite sessions with vendors.  At Spring we have also assisted clients with quick videos that provide the highlights of a program and generate interest.  These videos have been well received and employees are able to retain the information from a creative video more easily than a detailed presentation.  Videos are also shareable and can be viewed by family members who may be a critical part of the decision-making process.

Help Employees Make the Most of the Plan

Voluntary Benefits Vendors

After you have implemented a voluntary program and educated your membership it’s important that you continue to monitor the program and assist your employees in optimization.  Sometimes employees forget about the benefits they have available to them and continue to make monthly contributions to plans but they neglect to file claims because they don’t remember what they have elected.  A few simple actions can help your employees make the most of the plan:

  • Send a quarterly newsletter to all employees, or just those enrolled in voluntary benefits. This will give you the opportunity to remind them of the program benefits.  It can also help facilitate changes (i.e. enrolling spouses, children) and provide an opportunity to ask questions.
  • Partner with your vendors. For example, if you have a purchase program in place, they often run specials and send postcard reminders.  Take advantage of those specials!  Perhaps you could run a joint wellness campaign linked to specials on health equipment.  Ask if they would be willing to raffle off something like a treadmill or vacation to align with your wellness strategy.
  • Remind your employees to file claims. Even if you cannot leverage actual data, you can send a reminder at the midpoint of every year for wellness visits with a link to the claim form.  For example, most critical illness and accident plans offer a wellness rider – find out how many employees use that benefit and try to increase that percentage.
  • Ensure the program remains competitive from a pricing and design standpoint. Employees should feel assured that the benefit they’re purchasing through their employer remains is top tier.

Taking the above factors into account will help you establish a voluntary benefit offering that is accessible and relevant to your employees and that is well worth the effort on your part. Today’s workforce has come to expect more than just the basics when it comes to benefits, and voluntary products allow you to diversify your benefits package, keeping you competitive with market standards without any significant cost increase.

However, it is not enough merely to offer voluntary products and services – they need to be the right ones for your population, they need to be communicated effectively, they need to be readily understood, they need to account for regulations like ERISA, they need to be fully utilized and they need to be rolled out in a way that makes sense for your organization. By covering these bases you’ll be able to avoid the most common pitfalls and successfully offer a valued voluntary benefits programs.

Why Voluntary Benefits Are No Longer Voluntary for Employers

Are You Missing an Opportunity?

By Karen English, CPCU, ARM and Lai-Sahn Hackett, CPDM

Introduction to Voluntary Benefits

Gone are the days of “voluntary” being frowned upon in the workplace.  We are past the stage of employer unease with the concept and the resulting worry about “selling” to employees.  Instead, voluntary benefits have become a welcome addition – some would even say critical – yielding increasingly competitive employee benefits packages that couldn’t be offered without them.

we are at a point where employers welcome voluntary benefits, yielding increasingly competitive employee benefits packages that couldn’t have been reached without them.Voluntary Benefits Dental Insurance

Voluntary benefits are insurance products or services made available by employers, but paid for by employees.   They are typically offered at lower rates than employees can find on their own, and provide a degree of choice beyond an employer’s core benefit offering.  There are a number of insurance carriers that underwrite them with products ranging from traditional life, disability, dental and vision to emerging concepts such as critical illness, identity theft protection and student loan repayment.

Employers like voluntary benefits because they make their packages stronger and tailored to the wants and needs of their specific workforce. Employees like them because they are easily accessible, pre-vetted, discounted and more diverse than traditional benefits. Carriers, brokers and consultants like them because they are a needed extension of employer core offerings.

Employer Need

Voluntary Employee BenefitsIn today’s competitive environment, employers are striving to maintain relevant benefit offerings despite increasing costs and the continuing uncertainty of healthcare reform.  The constant need to attract and retain talent and increase productivity is even further challenged by evolving workforce demographics and degree of consumerism being applied to every interaction. Further, a recent survey found that sixty percent of employees are likely to take a job with lower pay but better benefits, emphasizing the importance of a robust benefits program made possible, in part, through voluntary products1.

However, it should not be looked at with a one-size-fits-all approach. Employers can no longer look across their employee populations and make a short list of benefits that will fulfill their collective needs.  With millennials now equaling the baby boomers in number, and generation X’ers on their way to surpassing both, employers need to think about not only age and gender, but also personas within these segments, such as what is warranted by income and lifestyle2.

Market Response

In recognition of these needs, insurance carriers have expanded their capabilities beyond what are typically core employer-paid benefits to what are often referred to as supplemental employee-paid benefits that can either be stand-alone or structured as buy-ups to core plans.  This expansion has opened up possibilities for employers, as they are no longer subject to a subset of specialty carriers and brokers with limited and often self-serving products. They instead can turn to over twenty3 of the most recognized life and health carriers to fulfill the widespread needs of their employees.Voluntary Benefits Trends

These carriers are partnering with employers, brokers and consultants to design voluntary programs that will resonate with employee populations.  Whether it is employee health, wealth, security and/or personal needs that an employer is looking to address, the products that can respond are broad, appealing and growing.  Considering the category of health, for example – accident, critical illness, dental and hospital indemnity are among the most common voluntary benefits offered4.  Within the category of wealth – optional disability, financial counseling and student loan repayment are highly popular. With respect to security, identity theft protection is projected to be the fastest growing voluntary benefit and within the personal sphere, pet insurance is following suit5.

How to Get Started

If you are grappling with how to find that happy medium for your workforce, taking the following steps will give you a start.

1. First and foremost, assess what your employees are interested in. At this point of conducting employee surveys and/or focus groups, you aren’t making any promises, just trying to listen and understand which voluntary products would be more valued than others.Voluntary Benefits Prices

2. Armed with this information, consider what your population can afford. You may find, for example, that six voluntary products are of most interest to your workforce. This doesn’t mean that employees can afford to buy all six.  In fact, we find that no matter how many are offered, employees purchase no more than three voluntary products at any given time6.

3. From here, think about resources to enroll and administer voluntary benefits. You may already have a technology platform you will want to leverage, or existing relationships with a set of carriers and enrollment firms that can help streamline the process.

Employee Benefits Communications4. Lastly and most importantly, contemplate not only how you will communicate their availability, but ultimately why employees should consider them. Employee education is critical to the reception of voluntary benefits, and the value proposition or “need” has to be clear for a benefit to even be considered7. This need should ideally be developed and communicated prior to the enrollment period, not during enrollment when the employee has likely already made up their mind and is not as open to processing new information.

Conclusion

In closing, the world of voluntary benefits looks very different than it did even five years ago. This shift is a result of a variety of factors including the rising costs of healthcare, changing workforce demographics, the increasing customizability of services in general, and the growing challenges presented by recruitment and retention. We are at a moment in time where stakeholders – employers, employees, carriers, brokers/consultants and more – are aligned and where there are great options for all parties.  The opportunities are endless and can be considered as a short-term strategy for now, with a longer-term view established based on the initial roll-out results.

 

Sources:

2016 Aflac WorkForces Report, op.cit
Pew Research Center, Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as America’s Largest Generation, April 25, 2016
3 Spring Consulting Group Voluntary Pulse Market Update, 2016
4 Spring Consulting Group Voluntary Market Pulse, 2016
5 Willis Towers Watson Voluntary Benefits Survey, 2016
6 Spring Consulting Group Voluntary Employee Pulse, 2015
7 Spring Consulting Group Voluntary Employee Pulse, 2016

Funding Medical Stop-Loss Insurance in Captives: What You Need to Know (White Paper)

Medical Stop-Loss insurance Captive fundingHealthcare reform, increasing costs, lazered coverage and leveraged trends are causing many employers to reconsider their stop-loss options. These include employers who are fully insured considering a move to self-insurance and current self-insured employers.

Healthcare reform mandates have led to many employers to review the cost of their medical insurance programs including funding alternatives and the need for additional stop-loss coverage. Deciding to insure medical stop-loss and fund it in a captive has proven to be a great way for employers who self-fund their health insurance to add a layer of protection from excessively high individual or aggregate health claims and meet ACA requirements.

Medical stop-loss insurance is not considered first dollar health insurance benefit and thus stop-loss captives are not subject to Department of Labor approval in the United States like many benefits are. Also, by funding stop-loss in a captive, an employer gains access to lower-cost reinsurance they might otherwise not be eligible for as a direct purchaser.

This white paper explains how medical stop-loss insurance captives work, the common types of medical stop-loss captives and who should consider one. We hope you find it helpful and enlightening. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact our captive consulting team. All of our contact information is listed on the final page or this paper.

To get your FREE copy of this white paper, please fill out the form below:

The Benefits of Captives for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses (White Paper)

Captives for Small Mid Sized Businesses While they were once almost exclusively risk funding mechanisms for the largest of corporations, captives have evolved over the years and a suite of captive funding options have been developed to assist businesses of all sizes.

In this paper, we seek to educate you about captive insurance, the history, benefits and the options available to small and mid-sized companies. We will explain what a cell captive is and how it can be an excellent entry point for a company into captive insurance. Finally, we will explore the next steps for your business if you decide that captive funding of your company’s risk might be a good choice and would like to explore it further.

We hope you find this paper helpful and enlightening. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact our captive consulting team. All of our contact information is listed on the final page or this paper.

To get your FREE copy of this white paper, please fill out the form below:

Captive Insurance for Businesses

captive insuranceOver the past two decades, the choice to fund a portion of a their risk in a captive has become a more and more popular one for business owners. Whether it be property and casualty risk or employee benefits, employers understand that this funding mechanism, once viewed as an option only for the largest of corporations, is now an option for companies of all sizes and industries.

There is much to be gained from captive risk funding. Some of the most notable and common benefits include:

  • Potential short- and long-term savings
  • Customized employee benefits designs and property & casualty programs
  • Enterprise risk financing applications
  • Potential financial efficients like cash flow and insurance

Spring’s captive insurance experts recently teamed up on a helpful new book about captive insurance. In “The Basics of Captives,” we have laid all the information an employer needs to know about captive insurance including:

  • Why you would want to consider a captive
  • What exactly a captive is
  • What captives can cover
  • What kind of captives are there and how do they work
  • Where captives are domiciled
  • How to know if a captive is right for your business
  • How to go about establishing a captive

Spring’s award-winning captive team, lead by one of the industry’s top captive leaders, Karin Landry, have designed and built countless captives over the past 25 years including some of the world’s most innovative funding solutions. In this book, they share a little of their experience, along with some of the recent trends they are seeing, in hopes of helping even more businesses save money on and gain control of their risk programs.

To download a FREE copy of this Captive Insurance for Businesses book, just fill out the form below:

Paid Sick Leave Compliance and Employer Best Practices

sick leave photo

Photo by umjanedoan

Across the United States, a legislative movement to mandate paid sick leave time for all employees has picked up significant momentum over the past couple of years. With a number of states, municipalities and even the President advocating for these new mandates, it is important that employers know how these changes impact them.

At a recent Disability Management Employer Coalition event, Spring partner Teri Weber gave the presentation below on paid sick leave laws with fellow industry experts Geoffrey Simpson from Presagia and Mike Soltis from jackson lewis.

We hope you find this slidedeck helpful and please don’t hesitate to reach out to contact us with any questions about paid sick leave laws or anything related to leave management.

Managing Medical Stop Loss in a Captive (Presentation)

Spring Senior Partner John Cassell recently organized and participated in a session at the Captive Insurance Companies Association (CICA) annual conference titled Developing the Operational Strategy of Managing Medical Stop Loss in Your Captive. Cassell was joined by co-presenters Stephen Hannabury, President of Educators Health Insurance Exchange of New England and Jesse Crary, an attorney from Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC.

See also: Spring’s Guide to Medical Stop Loss in a Captive (White Paper)

The CICA session focused on Ed Health, a medical stop loss group captive consisting of 11 Boston-area colleges that Spring assisted in the development of. The slidedeck below, which was used in the presentation, details Ed Health’s success to date and lessons learned through the development and ongoing management of a medical stop loss group captive.

We hope you find this deck helpful and please don’t hesitate to reach out to John using the form below with any questions about group captives and/or medical stop loss in captives.