Creating More Value with Voluntary Benefits

The 2012 merger of two hospitals in South Bend, Indiana, created Beacon Health System - a robust health care provider and research organization with more than 6,000 employees. 

 Annette Vota, benefits manager for Beacon, says the merger exacerbated an issue the hospitals had already been grappling with: a scattered, complicated collection of benefits offerings that left both employees and their managers confused.

“There was no rhyme or reason to what we were offering,” said Vota. “We had a bunch of different policies in different places. In a lot of cases, we had two carriers for the same product. We limped along for a while with that.”

To complicate things further, Beacon wanted to offer more voluntary benefits, to complement their high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and Health Savings Account (HSA) offerings. “We recognized voluntary benefits were an important component to add, because benefits aren’t one-size-fits-all,” said Vota.

It was clear Beacon needed to streamline their offerings and educate employees about the value of voluntary benefits. Beacon turned to HUB International. With the help of account executive Tony Rice, the hospital system has consolidated, simplified and amplified its benefits offerings.

At the heart of Beacon’s efforts is a three-year strategic plan that includes various employee education efforts as well as periodic review of compensation statements and benefits. 

For Rice—a Notre Dame champion quarterback in the 1980s—working with Beacon offered the chance to help a local organization in a meaningful way. “My team is HUB…I just have to make sure I don’t drop the ball,” he says. “I have to give Beacon the best support I can give.”

Consolidation was Beacon’s first concern, says Vota. “It’s not really efficient and you get less adoption when there are too many options. People don’t know what to pick.” With help from Rice, Beacon was able to consolidate all of its offerings under two carriers. Simplification resulted in numerous improvements:

  • A reduction in overall costs, even for products that were unchanged or similar to those previously offered. For example, Beacon now offers a critical illness policy with the option of a hospital rider, where they had previously offered the two as separate policies. Consolidation simplified enrollment and reduced prices.
  • Faster response times. Beacon can respond faster and more accurately to employee questions because information on all offerings is housed in one system. Benefits managers have all the data at their fingertips.
  • With a single point of contact, human resources spends less time running down contacts with concerns or questions: “Everyone is so busy,” said Vota. “The fewer relationships you have to manage, the better.”

Employee Education Helps Maximize Enrollment

Beacon crafted an employee education program with numerous components, including a series of enrollment meetings offering employees optional one-on-one sessions with HUB consultants as well as a call center and email blasts to inform and engage employees in the process.

Beacon held group meetings with managers to help them understand why they needed to give their employees time to meet individually with enrollers. Rice helped Beacon organize these meetings to increase manager buy-in, offering autographed mini footballs to sweeten the deal—with great results.

“HUB was able to adapt quickly and make improvements in our marketing strategy,” said Vota. “They were able to step back mid-campaign and make that happen.”

Beacon also added a new wellness plan, allowing employees to earn points that translated into premium discounts. Some of the plan initiatives give employees a reason and an incentive to enroll in voluntary benefits. HUB offered guidance on shaping the plan, an unexpected bonus, according to Vota.

“We came to HUB for the voluntary benefits, but it’s another example of all the different resources HUB has to offer their clients,” said Vota.

So far, Vota says about 80% of Beacon employees are enrolled in medical, dental and vision offerings. Of the voluntary benefits offered, whole life insurance is most popular, with almost 700 employees enrolled to date, while hundreds of employees have purchased accident, critical illness (with or without a hospital rider) and short-term disability policies as well.

Vota says Beacon’s partnership with HUB has been a game-changing relationship. “HUB goes out of their way and when they see a need, they address it. We don’t need to request a solution. HUB is there for us as a resource.”