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Inside Dental Technology
December 2022
Volume 13, Issue 12

Creating and Managing Robust Benefit Plans

Ensure that your laboratory is competitive in a tight labor market

Brian Forman

Benefit plan design is key to building out robust benefit plans. With a competitive, tight labor market, it is more important than ever to ensure that you are creating a comprehensive total benefits package that will attract and retain a talented workforce. There are many ways to design benefit plans. The first step is to look at your headcount and analyze what the needs are for your employees. In the dental laboratory world, this means you should fully understand what benefits are being offered by your competitors and what the cost structure looks like.

To maximize the best plan design, you can partner with either a benefits broker in conjunction with your internal benefits representative to formulate a medical plan, dental plan, vision plan, and short-term/long-term disability plans, along with ancillary benefits including life insurance, flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA), and health reimbursement account (HRA). Depending on the headcount of your dental laboratory, the costs will vary based on geographic location and other factors. An analysis of your budget will also determine what the true cost sharing will be with your employees. The typical cost split is 70% employer-funded and 30% employee-funded. It is important to think about offering more than one choice for the medical plans because there may be a variance between salaried and hourly staff on the wage scale. If your dental laboratory is multi-state based, making sure there is a robust in-network provider base is key because there may be some employees who reside in rural areas that need access to the same network as employees who reside near larger cities.

Managing benefit plans is much easier when everything is online, providing employees direct access to the information. The internal benefits representative plays a very significant role in the process because this is the person responsible for managing the benefit plans, ensuring that all communication to the staff is accurate and being responsive to their needs. This person should understand all of the transactional processes, assist employees with their claims, and act as a liaison between the carriers and the employee and laboratory. Having a support-level benefits representative who will be involved with high-level plan design and partner well with the benefits broker will ensure that the process is well managed and that everyone who enrolls or is eligible to enroll in the plans is taken care of. There are instances in which employees do not fully access their benefit plans because they do not understand what they have, and this is a teaching moment for them. Holding group and individual discussions—especially during open enrollment—will assist in making sure employees select the best plan for themselves and their families, and that it fits their budget, as they will have options to select.

Keeping up with the most recent trends in the benefits world and maintaining frequent communication with your benefit partners throughout the year will also assist in making sure that the most comprehensive plans are being offered. Employees evaluate what benefit plans are being offered in addition to the compensation during the recruitment phase, and with a tight labor market, you want to attract the best talent possible. While healthcare costs continue to rise, there are ways to keep your employees healthy to keep costs down. One of these ways is to incentivize them to get their annual checkups (eg, annual physical, dental checkup, and age-based wellness examinations such as colonoscopies and mammograms). If the employee gets three to four wellness examinations from the list, then the laboratory can provide a health reimbursement. This accomplishes two things: Wellness exams can evaluate and catch any medical issues early on, and it provides a nominal financial incentive for the employee, so it is a win-win scenario. The long-term implications involve helping to keep healthcare costs down for everyone.

Educating employees about their benefit plans involves not only counseling them about the functionality of their plans but also advising on what they should be looking out for when they utilize their benefits. A prime example of this is when the Employee receives their EOB (Explanation of Benefits) statement from the carrier. They need to review the statement to make sure the correct procedure code was used by the healthcare provider and that no duplicate procedure codes are listed. Most employees either do not open these statements or do not carefully look at the document, so if they have not satisfied their deductible for the year, they may owe more funds than necessary. If they have already satisfied their deductible for the year, the carrier will be responsible for paying the balance due to the healthcare provider, and the end result is driving up costs for everyone. Employees should be vigilant about their healthcare costs and reach out to their laboratory's benefits representative if they are unsure or need guidance. It is critical to have a comprehensive benefits plan and always look for ways to enhance it (eg, offering a matching 401[k] plan or increasing the level of matching) while educating your employees on the best ways to utilize the plans and advising to reach out if there are any questions or concerns about the plans or claims issues.

About the Author

Brian Forman is a Benefits and Compensation Manager with pladis Global.

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