Talk is cheap, service is priceless

By Denis Storey

LifeHealthPro


It's the economy stupid.

That catchphrase dominated Bill Clinton's re-election campaign several years ago. Politicians -- as well as pundits -- still occasionally return to that well. And it would be as shocking as the Casey Anthony verdict if it didn't play prominently in next year's presidential election cycle, as well.

It's become so commonplace, in fact, that it's almost lost all meaning, relegated to the scrap heap of empty rhetoric. But it's a refrain we in the benefits business would do well to heed.

The latest annual employee benefit report from SHRM last week backs that up, with benefits managers across the board reporting its impact on their companies, and the benefits they offer. While the amount companies spend on benefits has remained steady, many employers are turning to their employees to help pick up the slack as far as footing the bill in the form of premium increases, out-of-pocket maximum jumps and co-pay bumps. Employers are even (some might say finally) turning to wellness and disease management programs more than ever, insisting their workers take more responsibility for their own well being.

(What a concept....)

But employers still have their eye on reform. A recent survey form the experts over at IFEBP reports that more than 60 percent of employers have actually crunched the numbers on what impact reform might have on their own plans. And nearly 40 percent of them agree that in addition to the annual increases we always face, reform itself will probably bump up their plan costs even further.

But the most encouraging news is buried deeper in the report, with employers sticking with their plans. Less than 1 percent of them actually plan to slash benefits or stop offering them altogether. Even looking ahead to 2014, most of them fully intend to keeping offering benefits, albeit at higher costs to employees themselves.

But don't think for a second that it absolves you from doing your job. You might be communicating with your clients, but are you really getting through to them. It can be as simple as an extra phone call, maybe a regular newsletter or even personal visit. It's still a buyer's market. And a little tender loving care goes a long way. It might make the difference between that small group being your client next year, or your competitor's.