Group Health Insurance

Chances are good that as a manager of a veterinary practice, you weren’t ‘officially’ trained on choosing health insurance for your team. In this article, Monica Maxwell, SPHR, helps guide you in the right direction to make the best choice.

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Who knew when you signed up for vet clinic management that you would be signing on for a multitude of fun tasks, like choosing the group health insurance for your associates and support staff?

Choosing the right health insurance can be quite daunting. There are an unlimited number of options – both from an insurance company perspective and a broker perspective. And let’s not even get into the changes that Health Care reform will bring. Keeping up with that is a full time job within itself.

Obviously, providing a competitive and comprehensive benefit plan is critical in the recruitment and retention of a quality staff, and it also often plays a factor in your production calculations for your associates.  And whether your clinic consists of just a few people or is a larger organization, it is, of course, everyone’s goal to get the best health care coverage for your employees at the best possible price. “As a health organization it is important that we show our employees that we care about their health and their health benefits. We want to do more than the industry standard and we view our employee benefits as a key part of our total compensation program for our employees,” says Ron Morgan, DoveLewis CEO. “Our employees continually tell us how much they appreciate our health benefit programs.”

Strategies for success

One of the most important first steps in finding new or improved health care benefits for your employees is a simple one – review the needs of your staff.  Is the majority of your staff female?  Chances are yes since they are in the vet industry – so having a plan that pays for well-woman exams and covers mammography would be important.

It is also important to find out what your staff is missing.  Ask employees “if we could add one thing to our health benefits that is currently missing – what would it be?”  You might be surprised by the answer.  I routinely ask this question in exit interviews and about two years ago the answer was unanimous, “comprehensive vision” – so we started the second step in this process, we talked to our broker.

Finding a good broker that understands your needs is key and I recommend approaching it like you would when hiring a new staff member – interview them, find out their knowledge base, and make sure you are comfortable that they understand your needs and that they are looking out for your best interest.  It is a tedious process, but the work you do upfront will help you twofold down the line.  If you tell your broker that you aren’t interested in wellness plans and they keep pushing you to look at wellness plans, then frankly, you have the wrong broker.  You have to remember, they are YOUR vendor.

Once you have a broker in place, have them do the research for you. The first go around you will want to cross-check what they have given to you with your own research (it’s amazing what you can find online). However, moving forward your broker should be relied on as a time saver for you. You shouldn’t have to spend time gathering information yourself, and honestly, in most vet clinics where you have owners and practice managers working hard on the floor to pay for those benefits, spending hours researching just isn’t feasible.

Customer service, customer service, customer service

Just like in the vet industry, once you find a health care plan, it’s all customer service. It doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 100 employees; your health care company needs to provide you with the service you expect and need.  Three years ago, customer service was one of the deciding factors when we chose to switch health care companies.  From a billing perspective, our former company was administratively difficult.  Not only was it hard for us to get our billing issues streamlined, we also spent quite a bit of time assisting our employees with their own billing and claims issues.  Not a good use of time for anyone.  We not only liked the variety of plans our new provider had to offer us, which was most important, but we liked the options we had administratively. I have found that rather than searching through my plan contract, an answer on an out-of-the-ordinary question was a simple phone call away.  More significantly, claims are paid quickly and as expected.

It’s also important to consider other factors, such as the depth and breadth of health care providers. Our staff provides exceptional clinical care to our patients and expects the same when they go to get their own medical care.  We did our research and found that our provider has won a lot of national awards for disease management, customer service and financial security.

No one gets into the veterinary industry with the goal (or desire) of learning all there is to know about health care benefits for employees, but the reality is that it’s a key component in helping to find and keep the very best employees. And fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult and it can help serve your ultimate goal of providing exceptional care and maintaining a thriving practice.

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