Oh, boy, please don’t get me started on this…
This is the time of year when HR benefits folks get a smile on their face. If you have your stuff together, from a benefits standpoint, it’s around August, early September that you begin meeting with your insurance companies and brokers about 2012 benefit rates – we should just start calling these “Increase” meetings because in 20 years of HR I’ve never been with a company where we met with our insurance partners and the rates went down! (and that is actually factual!) I somewhat envy true Benefit Administrator and Managers because I could never do what they do, or want to. It’s a true life calling. It’s not really HR and it’s not really Finance – it’s somewhere in the middle of hell.
Benefit folks love Open Enrollment time of year – they’ll tell they don’t and they can’t wait until it’s over – but let’s face it, it’s the only time of the year anyone in the organization listens to them – so you know they like it! They get to have the big planning meetings with the finance folks and senior leadership to determine how they’ll pass on the costs to the employees, yet still make it seem like we are giving them more. Many will get to travel to cheap hotels and meet with groups of employees in hour segments – probably the only time they leave the office all year. To be sure – it’s a special time in the Benefits world.
So, this week I got to sit with our insurance broker to see how bad our insurance carrier was going to jack up the rates (picture me sitting with fingers crossed saying over-and-over “please don’t be double digits, please don’t be double digits, please don’t be double digits…”). I like brokers they were the first ones to teach me “under promise and over deliver”, which has worked well in my career. Our broker didn’t disappoint. The day before the meeting he called and said the sky was about to fall and you might have to close your doors, the rate increases were probably going to be around 3 to 4 THOUSAND percent! Then he showed up walked in the conference room and before he even sat down – said “9%” – and I was happy! Who the hell is happy with 9%?! I was – because he did a great job at preparing me for the worse.
Here’s the problem – the current system and health care reforms new system coming – just isn’t sustainable for employers. Insurance is too expensive and too complicated, and unless you’re a Fortune 500 shop – you don’t have the chops in-house to really make sense of it all – so insurance starts to feel less like a benefit, and more like something that is about to happen to you – but not in a good way. Not like the feeling you get as a child when Christmas is about to happen! More like the feeling you get as a child when your newly divorces mom brings home “Uncle” Kevin to spend the night – it just doesn’t seem right.
I don’t have a solution for you kids. It’s broke, it’s broke way bad – and health care reform isn’t going to come close to fixing it. So, HR Benefit Pros – skip the Courtyard, they no longer give you a free breakfast, check out Holiday Inn Express or Embassy Suites – or any place with free drinks at the nightly “manager’s reception”.