Sitting at the table, I scan over my renewals for the upcoming year for my health plan. It’s decision time. An array of options are presented to me, complete with network discount averages, expected loss ratios, disease and case management, reporting and banking details, as well as prescription administration. Transplant networks, provider disruption analyses, consumerism tools, and wellness programs join in the barrage of considerations I need to mull over. I listen to the voices of potential health plan companies, whom, perhaps, will become future partners. My heart whispers a warning.

Health plan benefit decisions do not come lightly. I also don’t jump on the latest bandwagon, fast-moving train, or fabulous new idea that’s presented in the marketplace. I stand and remain firm, proceeding with caution. While attractive bids grab my attention, narrowing down choices is not a simple task for me. The outcomes of our management team’s choices affect our associates (and their families) in two ways. First, benefit expenses can shake the profitability of an organization. Our benefit strategy relates to our human resources strategy, which drives our company’s success. If our benefits drag down profitability, it affects the resources we have available not only for our associates, but our company’s strategies as well. 

Secondly, changes to benefit plans, providers, and designs can touch the lives of our associates. The Gallup Organization reported recently that "engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry." The last thing I want to do is turn lives upside down with inadequate benefits. This type of morale-buster influences turnover, recruiting, promotions, operations, engagement, and our overall performance. After all, the reason we offer benefits is to attract and retain top talent.

Recently I had a conversation with an employee who explained to me that her three-year-old child might need to have a complicated surgery. Health care is personal to employees and the conversation was certainly personal to me. Cancer, diabetes, migraines, asthma – all illnesses and injuries – are personal. How could they not be? I need to have benefit plans that sustain our company’s performance, but also help take some of these burdens away so our associates can focus on the livelihood of our business. 

We offer a variety of benefits but our health plan is the most value-added piece in our entire employment package and, for me, the most important decision of all. Some say that emotions have no place in business, but my heart says otherwise. Delicate choices need to be made because I not only care for our company, but our associates, too. My heart has yet to steer me wrong; I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic.

Karrie Andes, SPHR, CBP, is the senior benefits manager for PGi and a savvy self-funding health care gal. She’s located in the Kansas City Area and can be reached at karrie.andes@pgi.com.

How do you approach health plan renewals? What have you learned about the process? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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