Time Inc. makes a bold move to a private exchange

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Following its June 2014 spinoff from the Time Warner media conglomerate, Time Inc. implemented bold new health and wellness programs for about 5,000 U.S. employees, as well as their eligible dependents, as part of a larger effort to exert its independence.

Greg Giangrande, executive vice president, chief human resources officer for Time Inc. and the 2015 Benefits Leadership in Health Care Award recipient, created key messaging and fostered a workplace-wellness culture. The intention was to illustrate how the company founded in 1922 with the publishing of Time magazine had evolved into a vibrant, dynamic and contemporary company with an iconic brand equity that is the envy of all media empires.

“Being independent afforded us the opportunity to evaluate all of the different programs, policies, procedures and culture, and how can we create a great place to work that’s reflective of our great brands and history,” he explains.

As part of the cultural transition, Time Inc. built a compelling message around the notion of “differentiated benefits for a differentiated workforce experience.”

Also see: Time Inc. moves active employees to a private exchange

The move to Towers Watson’s private exchange platform, OneExchange, took six months and included new, enhanced benefits plans, improved choice of plans and carriers and a new wellness program with a wide variety of opportunities for rewards.

Among those enhancements were newly negotiated life insurance plans, improved commuter benefits and new choices in voluntary benefits, including improved dental coverage, a new health reimbursement arrangement, enhanced health savings account funding, legal services and identity theft protection.

“Greg had a clear vision and passion for what he wanted to deliver, and it was well executed,” says Jim Foreman, managing director of exchange solutions for Towers Watson.

Also see: Top 10 employee questions on private exchange enrollment

Under OneExchange’s defined contribution approach to health care, Time Inc. sought to help its employees feel less intimidated about shopping for health insurance and create an experience that 
would mirror the ease of purchasing other products or services online to which they’ve become increasingly accustomed.

“The more you take an interest in helping employees, the more engaged they become with your company. And the higher the engagement level with the employer, the better productivity you get, the better discretionary effort you get, the better loyalty you get,” Giangrande believes.

Time Inc. tapped into its own media-savvy mindset to conduct a high-touch marketing campaign featuring more than 30 town-hall meetings and information sessions, as well as webcasts that directly reached about half the workforce and their dependents.

Also see: Private Benefit Exchange Index inches up

It also helped considerably that Giangrande, who has been with Time Inc. for three years, has an extensive background in media both in front of and behind the camera, as well as writing, editing, producing, launching his own publication, authoring a book and penning a weekly column for the New York Post, Go to Greg, which offers career advice for to his fellow HR professionals.

Since there was no default option from the previous year for Time Inc.’s 2014 health plan enrollment, it was imperative that employees understood the communication and details of the OneExchange model.

A critical starting point was to explain that unlike President Barack Obama’s now-infamous promise about the Affordable Care Act, Time Inc. employees could actually keep their doctor or health plan carrier if they liked, but that they could also shop around for other coverage under an expanded menu of choices. This alleviated the employees’ biggest concern.

Also see: How a private benefit exchange can bend the cost curve

Another major message was to address questions about the cost of coverage. Employees were assured that whatever they were accustomed to paying out of pocket for their previous coverage, there would be at least one option designed to provide comparable or better coverage.

In switching to OneExchange, Time Inc. moved from one national self-insured carrier to a much broader platform designed to leverage competition among the top three to five carriers in 40 markets across the U.S. That meant using Towers Watson’s enormous scale, purchasing power and depth of experience to negotiate with the nation’s top carriers the best possible deals on behalf of Time Inc. employees.

Building better consumers

“Because we are part of this private exchange where you have different carriers competing with each other and offering different products, we want our employees to become the best consumers of health care and wellness for themselves and their covered dependents,” says Giangrande. “So we’re going to keep marketing and promoting the different options within the plan and choices that people can make each year to make sure that they are getting the best value for their employee contribution.”

Also see: Envision Healthcare shares reasons, challenges with private exchange move

Giangrande noted in a video presentation about Time Inc.’s transition to a private exchange just how challenging it can be to motivate busy and creative people to live healthier.

“We’re a media company, and we create great experiences for audiences,” he explained. “With people working so hard, it is not easy to maintain a healthy active lifestyle. When you can create those kinds of opportunities for them at work, they embrace it with great enthusiasm. 

“My philosophy on health care,” he continued, “is how do we create incentives and an environment that may be able to help you go to the doctor less and live a longer, healthier lifestyle? If you want to get a nutritionist and adopt a healthier eating lifestyle, you’ll get discounts for doing that. Everyone has the same access to the same discounts and what they choose to take advantage of is entirely their choice.”

Also see: Private exchanges will shift status quo

In a voice over that concludes with a group of employees gathering at a table in the corporate cafeteria, Giangrande explained the importance of community and culture. “That one act alone changes a culture just like that,” he said. “It’s a holistic change of what kind of benefits are we offering, what kind of work environment are we creating and what’s the new Time Inc.? It just makes for happier employees.”

How changes have paid off

The results have been impressive. In just one year, Time Inc. achieved 100% online enrollment and improved the process with built-in coverage recommendations that matched individual needs. And while the company saved $2 million by switching to OneExchange, a much deeper level of employee engagement was deemed a critical part of the success in transitioning to a new mission and workforce culture.

Foreman notes that Time Inc.’s savings resulted from the high-performance aspects of OneExchange, including market-based pricing and administrative efficiencies. He says they were passed onto employees who were provided the same or even richer benefits than before the transition for the same or lower cost.

Also see: Experts caution due diligence in private exchange selection

While many employers fixate on employee health care costs as an expensive line item that must be reduced, Time Inc. thinks of them more as a necessary investment in human capital.

“When you’re talking about something like benefits and health care, there’s nothing more personal and private,” Giangrande says.

And in an increasingly diverse workforce, he cites choice as the key ingredient of his company’s new approach with an emphasis on matching each individual’s specific health care needs to his or her life stage. “That was really the driving force in how we want to differentiate ourselves,” he adds.

Bruce Shutan is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

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