Group Health Insurance Slam Dunk

A three-point strategy for winning big

By Chris Noffke, GBDS, Director of Group Benefits

“A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.”

If Henry V. Porter, the high school coach who wrote this in 1939, could see how powerfully March Madness grips our nation today, he might have second thoughts about its effect on our sanity… not to mention the alignment of our collective keel.

When it comes to group health insurance, deciding when and how to pivot from one insurance company to another can be as maddening as filling out your bracket ahead of the big dance. Anyone who has wagered even the smallest of amounts, knows how difficult it is to choose the winners among the 68 teams in the tournament. Despite the countless strategies hyped by all sorts of experts, winning most often comes down to plain luck.

But, unlike choosing your March Madness bracket, developing and sustaining a successful employee benefit plan doesn’t have to be a toss-up. You can tilt the court in your favor by following this three-point strategy.

Point #1: Always be shopping

When it comes to staying ahead in the health insurance game, maintaining status quo is the fast lane to self-defeat. Instead, by carefully shopping around each year and being prepared to change, you can spot opportunities for significant savings.

That’s because insurance prices tend to follow a multi-year pattern. Generally speaking, insurance companies offer better rates to entice new groups to switch plans. They then gradually bring the premiums for those plans back up to a more profitable level… this takes between two and four years.

I’m not saying you should change insurance companies every year. But, by shopping around every year, you will be able to compare your plan costs to what is available on the market. At some point, you will see a significant difference between the renewal you’ve been given and what is available elsewhere in the market.

This strategy can benefit both small and larger employers and their employees. The difference maker here is a proactive, knowledgeable insurance advisor. Think of your advisor as a scout who is always on the lookout for the best talent.

Point #2: Know your benchmarks

Large or small, your organization is competing for employees against other employers. That’s why it is essential to constantly monitor the benefits types and benefit levels being offered in your area by similar companies. You need to know if your benefits are going to attract the best players to your team.

Here again, a proactive insurance advisor is your best ally. Speaking from experience, the ability to provide healthcare-only benchmarking across our entire customer base gives our clients a big competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent while controlling costs. Regardless of where you get your benchmarking data, it is important to drill down as deeply as possible to find the specific data most relevant to your business.

Point #3: Innovate your game plan

A company with the right medical plan is a lot like a basketball team with strong fundamentals; no team wins without excellent dribbling, shooting, passing, and rebounding. But, these skills alone are not enough to make it to the Final Four. To be the best takes something special; a secret sauce of team spirit, creative leadership and great individual talent.

Your success in attracting and retaining the best possible employees also depends on your ability to offer a fundamentally sound health plan. Exploring and understanding all options for how benefits are paid – from medical gap coverage, HSAs, HRAs, flex spending and many more – and then choosing what is best for your organization is essential. (E.g.: Recently, by altering how the employees paid their deductibles, we helped a client with 60 enrolled employees save over $100,000 on their annual insurance premiums.) 

But, just like in basketball where fundamentals are essential but not enough to win the tournament, to succeed as an employer, you need something special. Truth is, the vast majority of employees want access to voluntary benefits because they cover what may otherwise become a personal financial issue that distracts them from their work.

Renewal madness

Because it never actually ends (unlike March Madness), playing the employee benefits game isn’t about winning year-to-year, it’s about playing to the best of your ability. Bob Knight, one of the winningest coaches of all time said it best: “Discipline is doing what has to be done, when it has to be done, as well as it can be done, and doing it that way all the time.”

At WisMed Assure, we carry out these three points every year, for every client. They simply give us their employee census and we do the rest. (If you are not – yet – a client of WisMed Assure, we can do the same for you for free if you provide your census.)

I invite you to contact me to explore how these three points can help make your benefit program a winner.

608.442.3734 – direct


It’s Time to Jump Start Your 2020 Employee Benefits Process

Open enrollment season is upon us. Here is a list you can use to ensure your employee benefit program for 2020 is implemented without a hitch.

Has your advisor: 

  1. Requested a census?
  2. Reviewed alternative carrier market options?
  3. Presented a plan level review of your benefits (i.e. deductibles)?
  4. Discussed Open Enrollment and your employee forms?
  5. Provided a Benefit Booklet for your employees?
  6. Updated your Summary Plan Description (SPD)?
  7. Reviewed the legally required group health plan notices for employees? *

If any item on this list causes you concern, or you have any questions about how to make your 2020 employee benefits plan the best ever, we can help.

Contact our director of group benefits, Chris Noffke, GBDS.

608.442.3734 direct