Speak to an adviser 1 (317) 522-9966

Speak to an adviser 1 (317) 522-9966


Meeting You Where You Are – Even With a Zero Dollar Budget

Offering group healthcare is something many small Christian schools and churches want to do, however, for some of them, the idea feels out of reach. The thought of making changes to a current plan starting with zero budget or struggling to maintain the existing budget can feel overwhelming.

Tight funds can make healthcare goals seem unattainable for large schools also. Many who may offer group insurance already could be looking into self-funding their plan to benefit from potential cost savings.

There is a way to scale into a practical healthcare plan, one that will work for your organization.

We know money is a big concern for many schools and churches, large or small. Wanting to provide the best for your people and business can feel difficult to accomplish with limited resources. We also know that extreme changes and large jumps in existing plans aren’t practical.

Usually, if you want to provide a group plan for your school, we estimate your cost per employee and say that number will be X. If you need ten people on that plan, you need to figure out how to go from a zero dollar budget to a 70 or 100,000 budget. An intimidating task to accomplish.

So, let’s meet where you are.

If you are at zero dollars, let’s start there. We know that a 70 – 100,000 increase in budget feels unrealistic. Instead, let’s build a strategic plan where each month you contribute more to each employee’s health insurance, gradually making a difference. 

With a strategic plan, we can focus on how your short and long-term goals will be met. As an ongoing process, we use available knowledge and set your organization’s intended direction to get you where you want to be. Beginning where you are.

The choice to keep your benefits the way they are can be easy. But continuing with your current benefits will create the same problem next year — no access to improved healthcare benefits for your people.

There are more options than you think, even with a zero-dollar budget.

You can facilitate your plan as a voluntary offering, like Obamacare  — which can provide more extensive coverage without added costs.  Or group care, an option that allows small employers to collectively offer healthcare to their employees.

Start there, and then contribute in different ways to build your plan up. There are a lot of subsidies currently available right now that can help small schools and churches get the healthcare they need for their people.

The passion to provide your employees with the best coverage is strong and for some, that desire comes ahead of personal income. In that case, the government can cover a great deal of the premium for you. This enables a small Christian school to expand into group healthcare plans without having to jump.

Changing your benefits, even in small ways, is an impressive turning point for any organization. By investing the time to review your insurance options and design the right strategic plan, you can find the right plan that meets your employees’ needs.

Offering group healthcare with a zero-dollar budget can feel impossible. But by meeting you where you are, discussing your goals, and designing a strategic plan we can unlock the hidden potential within your healthcare plan.


Save Costs During Renewal Time and Give Back

As an employer, you’ve likely had a really bad experience (or two) with healthcare renewals and outrageous price hikes. These price increases are a common occurrence with many fully insured plans. Increases of 30 or 40% due to past claims or a high claimant (even if that person is no longer on the plan) can affect your school board in a negative way.

But what if those price hikes were reversible?

Recently, one of our clients received a 30% increase because of a high claimant on their plan, however, the employee that was responsible for the high claims left the company in July. Our clients were being penalized for a past high claimant. After digging through the data we were able to move our client to a different insurance environment that recognized the difference in their reality. 

We were able to secure a 15% decrease for this client.

With this unlocked revenue, they were able to lean into their culture and better achieve their goals: to take care of their people. They are now able to provide enhanced benefits and truly give back to their employees aligning with the company’s overall vision.

Another client faced a 25% increase, but through appropriate risk evaluation and pursuing better alternatives, we secured a 19% decrease. This money was then used to lower employee contributions, essentially giving their people a pay raise. 

We see increases like this frequently at renewal time, but with careful analysis and research into the plan, those costs can be reversed. 

The impact of high costs is evident.

These high increases in renewals can not only affect the company’s bottom line but impact key stakeholders and employees. From the CEO to the people, a sharp increase in expenses that originate from your employee health insurance plan can impact your people, on an individual level. For example:

  • CEO’s who are responsible for the culture of a business, keeping the people happy and maintaining positive numbers each quarter are heavily impacted by increases so large.
  • A CFO wants to provide a generous and competitive plan to employees that doesn’t break the bank. Steep increases in renewal costs can alter this plan and force CFO’s to face an erosion of bottom line performance and possible destruction of budget forecasts causing undue stress. 
  • From an HR perspective, that increase erodes employee compensation, affecting overall employee morale, happiness and satisfaction negatively impacting retention and recruitment.
  • Employees dealing with increasing premiums, deductibles and copays can leave them feeling frustrated and disappointed creating an unhappy workforce. This can lead to increased employee turnover or a policy that is underutilized.

By using a health plan to effectively solve these problems and manage risks, your key stakeholders all get a win.

Working with a professional, like us, to conduct an appropriate risk assessment and negotiate on your behalf can help you reduce high percentage increases, saving you money that you can use to give back to your people. 

For our clients, their renewal was $473,000, with a thorough assessment a new price of $309,000 was secured. We were able to achieve a reduction of $70,000 from what they were currently spending, significant savings that can be used for school improvements, culture, or employees.

If you have experienced a renewal price hike, due to past claims, high claimants or for an unknown cause, reduce the price before it impacts your school. We can help correct these prices, don’t hesitate to call, let’s chat about it.


Do You Really Know Your Health Insurance Options?

If you or a loved one needed to have an operation, you are likely to receive information prior to the surgery regarding potential treatment options, with in-depth explanations of each procedure.

But, how are you supposed to make a choice if you don’t actually understand what is being explained? 

In a hospital setting, technical explanations are valued, we need to hear everything about our options. We want to hear the pros and cons, what the doctor is most comfortable with, and what the outcomes could be. We need this knowledge and these recommendations from doctors to effectively weigh the risks and benefits of the decisions we make.

However, this same approach doesn’t work as well when considering employee healthcare insurance. Often, brokers will take an overcomplicated approach when explaining renewals. HR departments often do as well, when they give employees options for their plans. And because the decision is not life or death, we see many clients and employees in a position where they make a decision to relieve the stress of confusion.

At some point, experts need to step back and acknowledge that accuracy is not useful without a foundation of understanding. And without that understanding people are left making decisions blindly. This is unreasonable and puts you into a position where you don’t actually have a real choice.

You are given an illusion of choice.

This is often how health insurance feels for our clients. They are given options and explanations, without enough real context to help make an informed, knowledgeable choice. Leaving them with plans that may not be suitable for their business or employees due to high cost or underutilization.

In health insurance, the information needs to be digestible, presented in a way that actually helps you make effective decisions. If we take the complicated surgical approach to our health insurance we risk losing the reasons why the strategy is suggested in the first place. 

Conversations about health insurance should be broken down into pieces, explained, and questioned until everyone truly understands the choices. Your broker should know if the right questions are being asked. If there is enough insight? Is a consultative approach being used to make sure a wise decision is made?

Avoid the confusion and get the answers you need.

Your plan should be presented to you and your staff in a way that is clearly understandable. We don’t need to understand how to build a custom watch. We need to start with telling time, then go deeper.

As experts, in any profession, we have this desire to give intense details, be transparent, and describe all potential outcomes to those who need the explanation. However, if the scenarios don’t make sense, if the explanations are not understood, this level of depth may only create fear.

If you have questions about your policy or don’t truly understand your options, don’t hesitate to reach out. We can give you the clarity you need to ensure you are providing the most cost-effective, beneficial plan for your school and employees.

Don’t be affected by the illusion of choice. Let’s keep it simple.


When Health Insurance Companies Merge

As an employer, you should be aware of changes occurring in your health insurance policies. This is especially true following an acquisition because when a large health insurance company steps in, your policies could be adjusted, which can affect your school in a significant way.

By definition, an acquisition is the act of gaining a possession, or in other words, an acquisition is when one company takes over another. When an acquisition occurs between health insurance companies one will receive the clientele along with the company and when that occurs, modifications to the policies can be made. 

Although these changes may not be obvious at first, slowly over time your policy can shift in a direction that benefits the insurance company and not necessarily your school.

Large companies can be wrapped in bureaucracy 

True story — a school that we work for purchased insurance from a small health insurance agency and was happy with the service they received for a number of years. Eventually, the owner of that company decided to retire and sold the business to a larger health insurance company. Over time, the school’s insurance policy slowly became more about driving efficiencies toward the insurance company’s revenue and not the schools.

At a certain size, health insurance agencies can become less personal and direct because of the bureaucracy involved. Incentives are easily misaligned and policies and procedures become layered, preventing creativity and flexibility for brokers and agents. These situations are unfortunately more common than you might think. 

Know what information is important, and who to get it from

If your school’s health insurance company is considering an acquisition there are several key points to keep in mind, such as:

  • Request your policies data and be sure you receive it in a timely manner.
  • If your policy has changed over time and no longer fits your company culture, discuss your options with your provider to make necessary adjustments.
  • If a broker is suggesting a specific plan or carrier, ask if there is a different commission or monthly fee for that particular plan compared to others that are not being recommended. It is your right to know if incentives are being offered.
  • Maintain communication with your employees during renewal time as well as periodically throughout the year, to be sure your benefits align with their needs. If there are employee complaints or desires, be sure to bring them up with your provider.
  • Customer service can suffer after a merger or acquisition. If you find you are not getting the help you need, you may need to consider another carrier.
  • Stay on top of your health insurance policies, or bring in the help of an advisor who can help. Remember that maintaining a good health insurance policy needs attention throughout the year, not just at renewal time.

By staying informed with the correct data and asking the right questions you can help keep your health insurance policy working to its full potential. Remember to include opinions and information from your employees as well as your broker or agent.

Your employees can give valuable feedback

Cara Silletto, a workforce thought leader from Magnet Culture recommended in a recent Conner Chat webinar that companies should “…conduct pulse surveys, not just annual one-time surveys but regular one or two questions out to different pockets of the employees to collect more valid data.” 

By collecting this data and information you can get a better understanding of what is happening with your policy and remain mindful of any changes that are occurring throughout the year. Then, you can take this knowledge to the insurance provider to keep your policy moving in the right direction, which is a quality, cost-effective benefits program for your staff and school.

When health insurance companies merge, or an acquisition takes place, the immediate effects to your company’s policy aren’t always obvious. Know what questions to ask, what your plan options are and where the recommendations are coming from. 

If you need help with your health insurance policy don’t hesitate to reach out. 


Mindset: Benefits vs. Insurance

Reframe the potential of your benefits plan by changing the mindset of the insurance transaction. In other words, designing a benefits program is more than signing a yearly contract renewal, paying for an insurance plan, and hoping for the best.

Educators know that being well prepared is key to the success of the students. Lessons are carefully planned with consideration given for each student’s individual needs. Students would be lost if a teacher assigned a project without reviewing the material beforehand. However, when it comes to employee benefits, most schools set it and forget it. No one does their homework or even has the education they need to do the homework.

Most organizations genuinely want the best for their employees and offering a strategically planned benefits program can be a way to translate this. A benefits program tailored to your faculty’s needs can improve recruitment and retention while potentially freeing money for other programs.  

Meeting Your Unique Needs. 

Many employers have key objectives for their insurance plan and use the renewal period as a time to check these boxes. Due to the cost of investment and the importance a benefits program carries, a thorough design using research and new tools that can address the changing nature of employee needs and includes the growth of the business is critical. 

Educational institutions present a unique set of needs to keep in mind when developing a benefits program for its people, including tight budget constraints, compliance with government regulations, and designing communications to enhance the understanding of the programs within the day to day procedures of a school environment. If these requirements are met, your school board may see a significant return on investment. 

Integrating the help of an insurance advisor or expert in benefits for educational institutions can be a useful asset. 

Designing Your Unique Plan.

Beyond cost-savings, offering benefits designed for your staff is a way of letting your people know you see them as more than their profession. For example, younger employees may value paid time off, older employees may value a retirement plan, whereas employees with families may place more value in paid sick days or family plans.  

There is more than asking your employees what they need, of course. Other aspects of a comprehensive benefits plan are:

  • Careful financial planning – fixed premiums, routine costs of care, and the unexpected costs such as growth of the organization and the changing needs of benefits.
  • Benchmarking – comparing your benefits plan metrics to other institutions to stay ahead of the competition.
  • Data analysis – knowing the numbers and predictions to enable beneficial outcomes, both financially and structurally.
  • Maintaining clarity with employees – hearing feedback, gathering ideas, and knowing what works for them and what doesn’t
  • Offering training and Q&A’s – continuous availability to programs that can help in choosing care, understanding procedures, and bringing awareness to the available programs. 

The more information your business and your employees have, the more impact your employee benefits plan will have. For example, the program has more potential to be fully utilized if the benefits have been requested directly from staff. Furthermore, awareness of the programs available can lead to fewer sick days due to preventative and diagnostic care, which leads to a more sustainable program for all. 

Delivering Your Unique Benefits.

Finally, with a well-thought out plan, your institution could become unequalled, attracting top talent. Happy employees who care about their work are more likely to exceed expectations and produce higher productivity. Which in an academic world, positively impacts the students they are teaching. Investing the time and energy into a well designed benefits plan can seem challenging, but the rewards are too great to ignore.


The Hidden Middlemen Who Profit on Your Plan

Benefits plans are notoriously opaque. If you have ever asked what a procedure or a visit with a specialist will cost ahead of that appointment, you probably spent several hours on the phone with your insurance company and may still not have reached a clear, definitive answer.

This is a problem in its own right, but that lack of transparency creates other problems that are often hidden from employers. One of the biggest of those problems is that middlemen in your plan, like your advisor or your broker, may be making extra profits based on how your plan is used.

Who profits when your employees get sick?

While benefits plans have a number of layers where an advisor or a broker can make extra money off of you, these are the most common scenarios we see:

  • Pharmacy services
  • Medical management
  • Telemedicine
  • Rebates

In some cases, advisors can make a bonus on a per prescription basis. That’s a dramatic conflict of interest if those incentives are not disclosed. And advisor or a broker are tasked with helping you pick and implement the best plan for your business. If there are incentives baked into a plan that could influence that judgment, you deserve to know.

Aligning Incentives in the Right Direction

The first step you should take is to learn where to look for hidden incentives. Our compensation guide is the easiest tool for this (reach out and we’ll send you a copy). 

With that guide, you can vet your current plan for incentives that may be good for your advisor but not good for your employees or your business.

Next, you should start to consider using incentives to your advantage. For example, advisors like us (and there are a growing number of this type of advisor), work under a model where we are incentivized to lower costs and increase the quality of care. In other words, our compensation is at its best when your plan is performing at its best. 

Your goal is to lower the costs of your plan without compromising care. And our incentives are based on achieving that goal.

That’s how it should work.

Thankfully, the fight for transparency in benefits is moving in a positive direction, but we aren’t there yet. I’m happy to talk you through the challenges in the meantime if you’d like to schedule a call.


The $320,000 Bassinet, The Story of a NICU Stay

My colleague, Ben Conner, recently celebrated the birth of a new baby girl. She was born 8-weeks premature and spent 66 days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Today, she is perfectly healthy, but the experience Ben had with the insurance system is a powerful illustration of how a benefits plan can ease the challenge of a difficult family moment or ruin a family financially.

The Costs of a NICU Stay

While Ben and his wife were at the hospital with their new daughter, he constantly sang the praises of the doctors, nurses, and staff who cared for his daughter and helped his family cope with the stress of a premature birth. By all accounts, they were incredible, and I still hear him singing his praises on calls and in meetings.

They left that strong of an impression.

The costs of the care, however, are a different part of the story. Here’s how the costs broke down for Ben:

  • $320,000 bill sent to Anthem, from the hospital facility
  • $30,000 bill sent to Anthem for physician charges

To be clear, of the $320,000 charged to Anthem on Ben’s behalf, only $30,000 of that went to the actual professionals providing care. Yes, other factors for costs were involved. Ben’s daughter needed an oxygen monitor, a heart rate monitor, and she also needed regular feedings of Neosure, a supplement that helps babies grow.

You might be familiar with Neosure. It’s on the shelves at Walmart. $32 for 23 ounces.

Beyond that, Ben’s daughter needed very little additional care. Fortunately, she faced no major complications, and most of her NICU stay was precautionary. She was not being rushed into emergency procedures or taking expensive medications. She ate. She slept. She grew. She went home.

So Ben has taken to saying that after spending he was charged $320,000 for a fancy bassinet.

What These Costs Mean for Teachers and School Staff

Since we work in the industry, we carefully structure our plans to protect ourselves and our staff. Once Ben reached his family deductible, the health plan covered the difference, so Ben’s financial impact was relatively small.

That story would be very different, however, if Ben had an out of pocket maximum, which is common for the average American family.

If one of your teachers or staff members got a bill like Ben’s, could they afford it or would it be devastating to their family? For most workers, the answer is that this kind of life event has lasting financial consequences.

Here’s why:

In Indiana, private insurance companies markup costs 332% over Medicare. In our industry, Medicare is a metric for baseline costs because Medicare, as a federal program, is closer to actual costs of care as submitted by health care facilities.

In some cases, according to a presenter at our recent conference, that markup is 350% under private insurance. That’s a huge margin that comes at the expense of an employee.

Taking Back Control of Healthcare Expenses

There are better ways to do this. You can provide your employees with the coverage they deserve while also keeping the business financially stable. In many cases, you can actually pay less, but you have to be willing to pursue more innovative approaches to your benefits plans.

Large businesses are already using these tools, but private schools can too. Book a meeting with me to learn your options.