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Benefits administration delivery considerations - beyond business as usual

Benefits Administration and Outsourcing|Health and Benefits|Retirement
COVID 19 Coronavirus

May 20, 2020

This article examines how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the sustainability for employers of three benefits administration delivery models.

To put it mildly, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our working environment, and it's likely to continue doing so well into the future. Now more than ever, employees and retirees need to be confident that their benefits will be there when they need them. Employers with dependable and agile health and welfare and pension benefits administration solutions in place are better able to deliver on their promised benefits to workers. With a sense of security in this aspect of their lives, employees can be more productive during this troubled time.

According to the Department of Labor, the United States has seen 36.5 million jobless claims in the past eight weeks. High unemployment brings benefits insecurities and creates a need for employers to find solutions to their immediate benefit needs while staying laser-focused on the future needs of their workforces. In this environment, it is a challenge for employers to focus on the longer term if most of their time is devoted to delivering benefits and providing participants with peace of mind right now.

Employer priorities are changing quickly, and they need their administration solutions to be agile enough to meet their new requirements.

Over the past few years, the benefits administration industry has evolved to offer several different delivery models from which employers can choose. In light of the pandemic, employer priorities are changing quickly, and they need their administration solutions to be agile enough to meet their new requirements. For example, with fewer workers in offices, many employers are shifting toward an omnichannel communication and delivery approach that meets employees at their point of need — be it on the Internet through a computer or smart device, through the mail or in person. Balancing flexibility without sacrificing one channel for another is critical. In these times, stable, experienced solution providers are better able to rise to the occasion.

An employer's responsibility and preparedness vary with each benefits delivery model, and the model in place might not meet the employer’s needs during this crisis. In this case it becomes difficult for employers to find the time and energy to look forward while addressing real-time needs in the short term. Consider three real-life examples of the varied challenges facing employers that use different delivery approaches to benefits administration.

Approaches to benefits administration delivery


Insourced

Challenge:

The employer is responsible for benefits delivery.

Benefits staff manage day-to-day carrier and payroll connectivity; take calls; process mail; access the system remotely; and handle furloughs, COBRA events, pension payments, possible hiring surges, and anything else the business requires.

Short-term action:
  • Provide benefits staff remote access to handle participant contact and manage technology and third parties.
  • Establish a hiring and training plan to manage turnover.
  • Be legislatively compliant.
Long-term strategy:
  • Decide if your organization is committed to insourcing.
  • If yes, document protocols for sustained business continuity.
  • If no, procure a co-sourced or outsourced solution.

Co-sourced

Challenge:

The employer is responsible for customer service; the partner is responsible for technology and administration.

Benefits staff need to handle participant contacts, process mail and access the system remotely.

Short-term action:
  • Provide benefits staff remote access to handle participant contact.
  • Establish a hiring and training plan to manage turnover.
  • Ensure the partner’s staff can manage technology and third parties remotely.
  • Monitor the partner to ensure business continuity plans are effectively deployed and service levels are satisfactory.
Long-term strategy:
  • Decide if your organization is committed to co-sourcing.
  • If yes, document protocols for business continuity; confirm with the technology partner and ensure it can deliver.
  • If no, procure an outsourced solution.

Outsourced

Challenge:

The employer has outsourced responsibility for benefits delivery and depends on the outsourcing partner to deliver.

Short-term action:

Monitor the outsourced partner to ensure business continuity plans are deployed effectively and service levels are satisfactory.

Long-term strategy:
  • Confirm the outsourced partner can support a long-term strategy.
  • Focus on benefit strategy and potential changes based on employee needs.

To choose the right benefits delivery model, employers need to weigh available resources. An insourced model requires personnel and expertise that can handle the administrative activities involved in delivering robust benefits to participants. Co-sourcing and outsourcing models reduce the administrative burden but call on their ability to find and manage the relationship with a dependable, agile and engaging partner.

When outside events impact "business as usual," employers can’t be concerned about whether their partner is prepared to deliver.

Regardless of delivery model, processes and protocols need to be documented and followed, and the right trusted partners must be put in place to deliver on expectations. When outside events impact "business as usual," employers can’t be concerned about whether their partner is prepared to deliver.

Stability and sustainability are always important, to both current and long-term benefits delivery strategies. In times like these, it's more crucial than ever to have partners that can be trusted today and that will rise to meet the needs of employers as the world of work changes.

Contacts

Kaitlin O’Sullivan
Director, Benefits Outsourcing

Coral Neisen
Managing Director, Pension Outsourcing

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