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Why Brokers Should Feel Optimistic About the Upcoming Healthcare Renewal Season

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Quick Look: After over two years of wading through uncharted waters, many businesses have started to settle into their newly established environments and redefined routines. Therefore, brokers should also feel they can start fresh with modern solutions to address their clients’ unique, complex needs and enter this year’s healthcare enrollment season with a renewed sense of confidence.

Employees have elevated their expectations when it comes to benefit value which means small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have had to adapt and evolve to stay competitive. Rather than having work spill over into their personal lives, people want offerings which allow the two to more seamlessly co-exist. Remote working, flexible schedules, and increased medical care options, including mental health support and critical health services, are among the changes employees want most.

However, many SMB leaders have struggled to keep up when determining which benefit trends apply to their workforce. They’ve been waiting to see if remote work is a sustainable possibility and what an increase in mental health services looks like as a long-term scenario. They’re learning how to balance new workforce demands with budgetary and operational restrictions to keep retention and recruitment on the upswing.

Though the pandemic rollercoaster left many unsure of what the next step should be, there’s light at the end of the tunnel as this year’s healthcare renewal season draws near. There are several updates to benefit services brokers can position as opportunities to help their clients embrace these changes rather than be bogged down by them. New technology, expansions to standard healthcare coverage, and extending network accessibility all support the ultimate goal of maintaining strong connections and delivering tailored solutions to ensure employees are satisfied and clients are successful.

New technology establishes better connections

The initial forced switch to video conferencing as a primary meeting space has now become so routine many can’t imagine going back to an in-office setup. This virtual convenience has also paved the way for telehealth options and how benefit services are delivered. In the past, the norm has been to conduct in-person enrollment sessions. However, there’s limited time to review and select healthcare plans using this approach alone.

Whereas, brokers who introduce video conferencing, online portals, and digital brochures give SMB leaders and their employees various methods of communication, disseminated over an extended period of time, making information accessible for all and encouraging engagement. Virtual technology also presents greater opportunities for ongoing education throughout the year versus trying to answer questions and navigate changes only when benefit enrollment season rolls around.

Though helpful and increasingly essential to accommodate today’s dispersed workforce, implementing digital technology for benefit services requires narrowing down a long list of options to choose which tools and resources fit best. Here’s one of the key areas where SMB employers rely on their broker relationships to curate the best choices for their companies and communicate them in a way which provides a clear understanding of the terms and benefits of each.

Mental health support as part of standard coverage

For employees to invest in their companies, they need to feel like their companies are investing in them. According to a 2022 American Psychological Association Work and Well-Being Survey, 81% of workers agree how employers support mental health has a strong impact on where they decide to work.

Fortunately, when determining essential healthcare needs, benefit plans have evolved to include mental health support. While some SMBs may have offered mental health services as part of voluntary benefits in the past, many are now including them in their main healthcare options. Mental healthcare coverage may include a combination of services, including therapy sessions, mental health app reimbursement, and company-official mental health days.

As a PEO broker, working within the parameters of health plan viability without compromising value requires creative strategy and a strong understanding of what a company needs. This expansion of coverage leaves room for customized approaches versus standard one-size-fits-all solutions, which allows everyone to feel better connected to the results.

Proactive measures optimize benefit value

There are several employee benefit trends which have garnered greater attention since the pandemic first began. Employees are as concerned with their mental and financial well-being as they are with their physical health. There’s been an increased focus on voluntary benefits, such as critical illness support, financial counseling, and tuition reimbursement, which serves as an area where companies can stand out.

Though not every trend carries the same weight or is applicable to every work environment, SMB leaders are open to change and will be engaged with the healthcare enrollment process to tailor options which will positively impact their company cultures. Asking questions regarding how employees perceive current benefits; which healthcare plans have been successful (or lacking); and what offerings can help keep SMBs competitive should be part of the conversation well in advance of the benefits renewal period.

Benefits of working with a PEO

Compared to the past few healthcare renewal seasons, unprecedented ideas now feel like a choice rather than a constraint. In this time of change, SMB leaders have the chance to set the tone for the culture they want to establish by how they invest in their employees. For brokers, working with a professional employer organization (PEO) like ExtensisHR offers an expert resource network to amplify the importance of benefit services.

ExtensisHR delivers a full-service portfolio including payroll, benefits administration, and HR guidance, as well as recruiting and risk and compliance services. Additionally, the mobile-first Work Anywhere™ platform streamlines HR processes for today’s distributed workforce, allowing workers to enroll and manage their benefits right from their phones, while also leaving SMBs time to focus on building company growth. Furthermore, ExtensisHR focuses on a people-centric model to increase business confidence and make your clients feel well taken care of.

There’s an overall sense of renewal as benefits enrollment season nears. We’re here to help you deliver the customized solutions your clients seek and provide the expert HR support they need. Contact ExtensisHR today.

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