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Open enrollment: Not just about group health-plan selection anymore

By Tucker Lounsbury

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Remember how open enrollment used to go? Your agent would come to your business location, review the goals of your company and how they related to the health-insurance plans you offered to employees. You would review benefit levels, deductibles, claims experience (for larger companies), how many plan choices to provide, and what funding levels you wanted to pursue. There was real flexibility in the way your agent could tailor your coverage offerings to meet and exceed your company’s and your employees’ needs. 

Where did the good times go? The Affordable Care Act and rising health-insurance costs have permanently changed things. Plan differentiation is minimal, costs are continuing to rise, benefit levels have gone down, deductibles are up, and funding levels have become difficult conversations, as no one feels good when they are done. 

I am here to tell you the excitement is back — and in fact, it may be more exciting than ever. As a direct result of the changes described above, the lifestyle-benefits space has exploded. 

Health plans and coverage offerings have stabilized with high-deductible plans here to stay. Lifestyle benefits have become the way in which employers can ensure that their greatest asset, their people, have access to plans and options that allow them to be properly insured when dealing with life’s challenging moments. Beyond group health-care coverage, lifestyle-benefit offerings like accident insurance, individual/group life insurance, supplemental disability insurance, and cancer protection create the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have accounted for as many of these “moments” as possible. 

Lifestyle benefits are not limited to health-care-related and supplemental coverages, however. They have expanded into areas like pet insurance, which has become a popular option for families looking to avoid the financial stress that trips to the veterinary clinic can create. 

Similarly, personal property and casualty insurance products go well beyond home and auto insurance. They now include coverages like a personal umbrella to layer your coverage for increased personal-liability protection and unique property coverages to provide protection in today’s technologic world. For example, there is a subscription-based insurance product to protect cell phones, gaming consoles, jewelry, and more with no deductibles. 

We are also finding that providing convenient ways to allow employees to review their lifestyle-benefits options can help educate them on how to best incorporate the benefits into their lives. We’ve worked with companies to provide customized landing pages so employers can share the lifestyle benefits that are available to their employees. Information can also be sent to significant others and family members by quickly copying and pasting a unique URL into their browser. Employees don’t have time to sit around the dinner table, hovering over a piece of paper, discussing their insurance options anymore. It’s key that the lifestyle-benefits discussion is made to fit into our daily lives in 2020. 

Insurance technology is growing with a mission of making enrolling in benefits more convenient than ever before — whether it’s groups of 10 to groups of 1,000-plus members. By utilizing an online-benefits portal, employers can expand their benefit offerings without additional paperwork, increase employee understanding of benefits, and simplify open enrollment. 

There’s no need to print packets of information for your employees with long forms to fill out. Using a portal, employees can see plan descriptions, helpful tools, manage their elections, and view any outstanding benefits enrollments. In addition, the employer can manage administration more efficiently through advanced reporting features that strive to help improve the health and welfare of their employee population through higher participation rates in available benefits offered. All of these things are geared to help create a more engaged workforce, which is a top goal for employers in this increasingly tight labor market.            

Tucker Lounsbury is president of NBT Insurance Agency. He has 24 years of experience in the insurance industry, which includes underwriting experience for a national insurance carrier, starting his own agency, and taking on significant executive-leadership roles. 

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