How employers can pick the right benefits adviser

As employees apply to and accept jobs that offer better-than-average perks and benefits, employers need to offer a competitive package. They also need to understand what benefits are popular among their employees and how to stay compliant. And the right benefits adviser can help with those tasks.

Anthony Cellucci, co-founder and managing partner of broad-based financial services firm The Beacon Group of Companies, offers some questions for employers to think about when choosing an adviser. He also provides feedback to those questions.

What qualities should I look for in an employee benefits adviser?

It’s important to find an adviser that puts integrity above all else. This attitude will manifest itself in every area of their work, from the way they serve clients and employees when issues arise to solutions for managing the cost of health insurance and workplace benefits. The adviser should advocate on behalf of her clients and have a deep knowledge of funding vehicles and coverage contracts, and offer carrier relationships. Ultimately, companies do business with people they respect, trust and like.

See also: Perks, benefits key to recruiting millennials

How do benefit advisers help clients manage their benefit plans and stay compliant with regulations?

Benefit advisers should review plans throughout the year. Some advisers can provide clients with a powerful online benefits administration system that can help the employees and the employer manage their benefit elections, coverage suitability, cost of coverage and compliance with regulations. Additionally, advisers should broaden their scope to include 401(k) planning and risk management services, ideally through in-house divisions with respective expertise amongst their staff. Within the benefits division, a firm should provide ACA compliance reports and carefully review fluctuating employee counts, essential benefit and plan affordability levels, discrimination testing, waiting period reviews and classification setup. Advisers should also provide guidance and administration around the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, and health saving accounts.

How can a benefits expert save my company and our employees money, and what type of financial solutions are available to us?

There are many cost saving vehicles that can be implemented with intelligent plan design, which includes HRA, and HSA, which can be paired with a qualified high deductible health plan, FSA or commuter benefits. The trend in the past couple of years really has changed from percentage-based contributions to a defined contribution approach due to the increased cost in providing benefits. Another well-received cost-sharing mechanism is seniority based cost sharing, which pairs well with a culture that has longevity within its workforce. It is important to share how much an employer is contributing to health and welfare benefits via total compensation statements.

See also: Should HSAs and 401(k)s be more closely linked?

How do benefit advisers help employees understand the healthcare plans?

Employer-sponsored healthcare plans have changed more in the last five years than ever before. While change can certainly be time consuming, it can also have positive consequences for employers and employees. For example, plans that require members to meet a deductible prior to accessing co-insurance have gone a long way toward building consumer awareness around medical and prescription drug costs.

Additionally, employers have more self-funded fully-insured lookalike plans available to them than in the past. Healthcare plan engagement at every level of an organization through HRA design planning, instituting creative funding alternatives, customizing a worksite offering, and incorporating all of it within a comprehensive online benefit administration system improves talent acquisition outcomes, builds employee appreciation and increases retention levels across all corporate divisions.

What kinds of human resource activities can be overseen with the technology a benefits adviser provides?

An online benefits administration system can be very helpful to HR folks with ACA compliance, variable hour management, 1095-C and 1094-C reporting, annualized loss expectancy calculations, plan affordability calculator and corporate policy acknowledgement functionality. Additionally, HR can use the system to store salary history, emergency contacts, license and certificate tracking, and education history, as well as new hire onboarding, open enrollment management, dependent management and time-off tracking. Companies also like using the system for HR and benefits communication, posting compliance documents, and listing employee benefits and perks.

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