Brokerage Ops the June 2017 issue

Preventing Buyer’s Remorse

Make your clients’ disability insurance coverage work harder for them.
By Jeffery Smith Posted on May 25, 2017

I’ve found the unease that results from buyer’s remorse is often proportional to a product’s significance or price: the more important the purchase, the worse the feeling. That’s because, with big-ticket items such as a new car, you’ve likely spent hours researching brand and model options, asking questions of the dealer’s sales team and taking numerous test drives. A lot of time and effort went into making a decision you are now stuck with for at least a few years.

Buyer’s remorse isn’t just limited to personal purchases. Clients that make the choice to switch insurance carriers sometimes have feelings of regret and unease after implementing a new program. However, the consequences here are twofold: not only is your client left dealing with empty promises from its new benefits partner, but the wrong choice also could leave your relationship hanging in the balance.

New Approach to Disability Management

As an advisor, your most important role is to help ensure your clients select the right carrier for their employee benefits program. This is particularly important when analyzing disability insurance carriers.

While switching disability carriers might seem like a low-risk change, selecting the right disability carrier can make all the difference to your client. That’s because disability carriers do more than just provide employees with important income replacement if they need to take a disability leave. Today’s disability insurance plans provide return-to-work and stay-at-work support to an employee experiencing a medical condition in the workplace. These programs can help reduce employee healthcare costs and increase productivity, employee engagement and morale.

During the RFP process, many insurers make promises about their programs, including their impact on employee disability durations and how they will aid an employee’s return-to-work or stay-at-work accommodations. From my experience, these assertions can end up being empty promises that leave clients scratching their heads when the reality doesn’t live up to expectations.

Go Beyond Number Crunching

While you need to consider many data points when advising a client on the best disability insurance carrier, it’s especially important to analyze different return-to-work or stay-at-work services and how each could benefit a client’s bottom line.

But doing your due diligence goes beyond just looking at the numbers. You’ll also need to ask the right questions of a carrier to help ensure your clients get the type of comprehensive disability management support they need. These three questions will help your clients avoid surprises down the road:

Are all employees eligible to receive return-to-work and stay-at-work services?

When an employee experiences a disabling illness or injury, the last thing your client will want to do is determine if the employee is eligible for accommodations assistance. It’s easy for a carrier to say it will provide assistance to all employees, but there can often be unexpected red tape for an employer if, for example, the employee is enrolled in a short-term (instead of long-term) disability program. Determining which employees are eligible—and any additional costs associated with coverage for those who aren’t—is important to understand before an employee experiences a medical issue.

Who will be working directly with the employee to develop the appropriate return-to-work or stay-at-work plan?

The most important aspect of a disability carrier’s stay-at-work and return-to-work services is having available an on-site expert skilled in disability management. Consultants from a disability carrier analyze the employee’s workspace, job function and any restrictions imposed by the employee’s medical team, and they work with the employer and employee to find the best solution.

It’s not unusual for national carriers to use contractors from across the country to provide this timely and localized accommodations assistance. What you and your client will want to learn, though, is who manages these contractors, what type of training they have and how the individuals report back to the carrier about what an employee may need or progress being made. Identifying who will provide this assistance will help ensure your client’s employees are getting the right kind of support.

How does the carrier showcase return on investment?

Employee benefits are often highly scrutinized by executive management, which makes a benefits offering’s return on investment an important proof point for your client contacts to report on. Yet success is measured differently for each employer.

Will the board of directors or senior executives want to know their employees’ average disability duration versus the industry average? Or how many temporary or permanent workers weren’t needed as the result of comprehensive disability management? Can they show how they’ve used benefits from other carriers to make the most of an employer’s full benefits offering? While all carriers will report that employees were able to return to work, not all carriers can translate successes in a way that showcases how they impacted a company’s bottom line.

Speaking up during the process and helping your client determine answers to what are often nitty-gritty disability management questions can help prevent surprises down the road. Not only does this translate into success for the client and prevent buyer’s remorse, it helps position you as a consultant who understands your client’s needs.

Jeffery Smith is workplace possibilities program practice consultant at Standard Insurance Company.

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