Make a Smooth Transition to a New Employee Benefits Plan

young female adult reading about her employee benefits plan

January is the start of another employee benefits year for most companies. Ideally, the benefit offering meets a wide range of employee needs, giving them access to affordable, quality services. For some companies, that might mean it’s time to revisit employee health care plan options for next year.

The decision to change insurance plans should present an opportunity to control costs and manage risk. It’s important to choose a collaborative partner with a proven record of success in implementing and launching new benefits plans. 

A strategic approach to employee health care plans

Health plan partners act as an extension of the human resources (HR) team and their work in serving the company — meaning the employee benefits experience reflects on HR and the employer brand overall. A smooth transition to a new benefits plan builds trust and adds value. 

“When changing benefits plans, the ultimate goal is minimizing disruption to employees while maximizing financial opportunities,” says Tom Nolf, Director, Client Management, Highmark – National Business. His team takes a supportive and attentive approach to implementing new clients, with strategies that include:

1. Minimizing the administrative burden

Creating a new employee benefits plan takes several months from start to finish. Most implementations kick off well in advance of the annual enrollment season. “This is when we develop, cultivate, and execute a personalized strategy for each employer,” says Nolf. 

Each client has a team of subject matter experts who engage throughout the process. Client managers and client service managers oversee daily needs with support from implementation, operations, and customer service teams. Clinicians and program specialists also contribute knowledge in areas like pharmacy, chronic conditions, behavioral health, and niche offerings. 

Employers have weekly implementation meetings with their Highmark team to manage tasks and track progress against timelines. The same team members stay on with the client past implementation to ensure continuity and plan success. This approach reduces the administrative burden on clients.

2. Pre-integrating with other plans

There are thousands of health care vendors in the marketplace today. These vendors offer many types of services, including:

  • Pharmacy benefits
  • Dental and/or vision insurance
  • Specialty programs for chronic conditions such as diabetes
  • Spending accounts for health care-related costs and other expenses
  • Behavioral health care services
  • Substance use disorder programs

There is a lot of overlap in these plans and programs. Employers need to integrate all their different benefit offerings for the best performance and returns. “We have pre-integrated hundreds of vendors into our system,” Nolf says. “We proactively engage with them and do the heavy lifting up front.” 

Better integration leads to better data sharing, which helps create a more accurate profile of each member and their needs. This is critically important as 69% of digital health companies surveyed said they were receiving incomplete third-party data.1

3. Optimizing technology for better care

Highmark outperforms the market when it comes to managing health care trends, thanks to a deep investment in artificial intelligence (AI). “Our relationship with Google and use of the Google Cloud put us ahead of the game,” explains Nolf. 

The relationship enables technologies like machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) that augment, supplement, and complement one another. Highmark can parse individual and historic data, along with population health metrics, for a full view of a member’s health and potential outcomes. 

The resulting profile helps Highmark inform their network of providers to choose the “next best action” for each individual member. The right person gets the right care at the right time — whether that care is preventive, diagnostic, or prescriptive.

Transitioning to a new employee health insurance plan

A targeted onboarding strategy makes the transition easier for HR and benefits managers, as well as for employees. Highmark creates specific onboarding plans for each employer, leveraging technology and talent to facilitate the process. 

According to Nolf, a successful transition depends on sharing plan information and educational content with all employees. Highmark takes a holistic, omnichannel approach to onboarding new members with:

  • Print and digital collateral materials
  • Workplace and in-home communications
  • Open enrollment group webinars
  • Onsite benefits meetings
  • Benefits fairs with client advisers

In-person visits allow for confidential discussions outside of a typical open enrollment setting. Employees can ask detailed questions about the coverage that’s available for their health needs, particularly if they have chronic health concerns. Getting the right answers up front alleviates worry and anxiety about changing employee benefit plans. 

“The most important thing for us is taking care of the member,” Nolf stresses. “If we take care of the member — the employee — then we also take care of the employer as our client. We lead with empathy to deliver on our commitment.”

All references to “Highmark” in this communication are references to Highmark Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and/or to one or more of its affiliated Blue companies.

1 Statista. Health, Pharma & Medtech. Medical Technology. Share of digital health companies which had the following issues when obtaining patient data from a third-party vendor in the United States as of 2022.

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