Where's Maestro?

By Rob Butler, Chief Executive Officer

May we first send our thoughts, support and best wishes to the city of Las Vegas for the recent horrific tragedy. Sure seems like our blog takes second precedence in the sheer scope of things.

Speaking of second precedence, you might find yourself feeling like something is missing this year. Yep. You won’t see our glowing yellow booth.
You won’t see the sessions recorded by our digital doodle artists.
And unfortunately, we won’t be hosting our rooftop party, like we had last year.

While last year’s conference was nothing short of incredible, this year, although HR tech is important to us, another precedence has emerged. Clients, clients and more clients.

People got bit by the Maestro bug last year and since then we have been busy onboarding and taking care of business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive for all those in my generation). We’ve also been partnering with key channel partners as well like Aflac, Allstate and Pear Benefits, while adding over 100+ new employer clients including some really cool ones like HDR. We’re investing time and resources to combat their administrative headaches and support HR by customizing new HR suites that fit their unique needs.

We have promised both our employer clients and our channel partners a “we’ve got your back” service experience and we meant it. Never wanting to be thought of as just a vendor who simply “sucks less,” we hire people who have a passion to make employee health and benefits people-friendly again. We’ve beefed up our customer service and operations with 48% net new hires year-to-date. They act as an extension of our clients’ HR teams, providing full transparency every step of the way.

And, it’s not just the people answering the phones who display this passion for service. Last month, our tech team persevered through natural disasters and worked diligently to release the latest version of maestroEDGE™ and (me)BILLING ADMIN™ for our clients on time, despite our Orlando office being affected by Hurricane Irma.

So yeah, we support and love HR Tech, but our clients come first. You won’t be seeing the big, yellow booth this year, but you can still visit us at our (scaled down) booth #2452 at HR Tech or check out what we’re up to at wheresmaestro.com.

Heads Up: Quick Reminder on 2017 ACA Requirements

By Sheryl Simmons, Chief Human Resources Officer

“Repeal and Replace” has become a daily staple of our national newsfeeds. Our blog sites, Twitter streams and LinkedIn feeds continue to swirl around the current state of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Regardless of the chatter and possible outcomes, employers still need to look at their current operating strategies to make sure they’re ACA compliant. As much as employers were looking for a modicum of ACA reporting relief, it didn’t happen. The looming ACA requirements are still the law of the land.

One such requirement is the deadline for using the new Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) template, which is now. The SBC instructions state that these new templates must be used beginning on the first day of the first open enrollment period that begins on or after April 1, 2017, with respect to coverage for the plan years beginning on or after that date. This applies to all fall and January 1, 2018 plan years.

If you’re feeling uneasy about the state of your ACA compliance, check out the following information shared by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), here. And, don’t forget, our (me)ACA SERVICES™ may be able to help with everything from data collection to form distribution. Check out how we helped the University of North Carolina (UNC) nail ACA reporting in our case study, “Conquering Compliance: How UNC did it in less than six months.”

what makes a company "Cool" anyway?

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It’s time we finally install a trophy case. This past month, Maestro Health™ was crowned “Coolest Company” at Chicago Inno’s Chicago Fest – for the second year in a row. But, what does "Coolest Company" really mean anyway? 

Check out what a few of our Chicago Maestronites had to say when we asked them to weigh in:

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“Maestro Health is the only company I have ever worked for where I really have the feeling that I am not only part of a team, but my input actually matters. Our leadership treats ALL employees with a level of integrity that is far beyond anything I have ever experienced. It makes going to work PEOPLE-FRIENDLY again.”
– John Pickering, Quality Assurance Lead


 

“Treats, lunch, lots of cheese … oh, and our executives are very approachable and always available.”
– Christine Buzard, Office Manager

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“Everyone is willing to jump in and help with things, even if it’s not their department.”
– Albert Ellenich, Senior Experience Designer

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“Our leaders serve their teams and help row the boat!”

– Chad Lilly, Director of Recruiting

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“I get to work with people who really care about the work they do.”
– Luciano Pereira, Software Architect

 

 

Check out the photos leading up to our crowning moment at Chicago Inno’s Chicago Fest.

Smart Service, Meet Smart Benefit Accounts Technology

By Brandon Wood, President of Client Experience

Our tech can’t survive without our service, and vice versa. So, I felt somewhat uneasy when I saw a particular question come through from an attendee during a recent webinar where we were discussing the ways employees gain financial security with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). The question posed: “Does Benefit Accounts technology simply automate the employee experience? I’m worried I won’t receive the service I need to support my team and employees.

The truth is technology cannot be truly smart or do its job if the service just isn’t there. In employee benefits, a great “user experience” is much more than the software interface. According to a survey conducted by American Express, 78 percent of consumers have ended a transaction due to bad customer service.

Smart service requires transparency
I’ll admit it, the term “transparency” can come across as just another buzzword. But, transparency is essential when it comes to customer service. Smart companies are well aware of how important it is to their clients. It’s what has proven to make companies like Zappos, who host tours and Q&A sessions in their headquarters, so successful. With 94 percent of consumers expressing loyalty to brands that offer complete transparency it’s clear transparency must be the norm.

While technology that helps employees manage their benefit accounts may not be considered as fun as buying a new pair of kicks from Zappos, the focus on transparency is just as important. One of the best ways to know if your Benefit Accounts solution provider is truly transparent, is to look at their company’s culture. For instance, do they put an emphasis on honesty from the beginning of the relationship – even when it does not reflect well on the individual or team? Have they openly admitted to their weaknesses during the sales process? If so, it may be safe to say that they won’t try to hide any issues from you as they arise. In fact, they will likely identify the problem before you even have a chance to notice and will notify you of the action plan they are already executing to provide a resolution (that is if they haven’t already fixed it).

Smart service includes a partnership approach
Our Client Experience Team feels very passionately about the partnership approach to service. Never wanting to be thought of as just another “vendor,” they approach their work with a partnership mentality and act as an extension to our clients’ HR teams.

Too often vendors have people answering calls who are simply meant to be messengers between the client and the person responsible for fixing the problem. That’s why an Accenture survey found 89 percent of customers report frustration when faced with the need to repeat issues to multiple client service representatives. Our clients’ main point of contact, the Client Relationship Manger, would never answer calls and throw the problem over the fence for someone else to fix. They’re the ones who look directly into the issue and either resolve it themselves or hunt down the answer.

Smart service can predict the future
No, it doesn’t require a crystal ball. However, it does require a sincere focus on the member experience to ensure the best possible engagement with their Benefit Accounts and the least amount of hassle. One solution is to offer members a way to manage their HSA or FSA the same way they manage most things in their life – via their smartphone.

We all know that most people rely heavily on their smartphones. They offer hassle-free ways for us to get information on nearly anything, most of which is via the use of mobile apps. In fact, apps account for 89 percent of the time people spend on their mobile devices. Offering a hassle-free mobile app provides members with a familiar way to manage their account anytime, from anywhere. A smart service mentality will be clear in a mobile app by offering features that allow members to easily upload and submit photos of receipts for reimbursement and simple, clear ways for members to contact someone for support.

Smart service must be a priority
If you’re currently working with a Benefit Accounts provider who doesn’t make service as much of a priority as their tech, it may be time for a change. (me)BENEFIT ACCOUNTS™ is our consumer-driven account solution that makes each account (i.e. HSA, FSA) easy to choose, access and manage year-round. For more information on (me)BENEFIT ACCOUNTS and resources on how to optimize your Benefit Accounts strategy, visit: maestrohealth.com/smarterbenefits.

Hello, Ben Admin 2.0

By Nancy Reardon, Chief Product Officer

Benefit administration, private exchange, enrollment, online shopping – no matter what you call it, employers are looking for stronger solutions to help their businesses adapt to new marketplace realities. The largest component of this new reality is the changing needs of their workforce.  

Effectively managing and engaging your workforce will help drive your business forward and ultimately improve the bottom line. For HR professionals to achieve this success, a new approach to managing benefits, which attracts and retains employees, is now a necessity.

Hello, Ben Admin 2.0.
Over 25 percent of benefit decision makers expressed that they thought benefit administration systems were only “partly” integrated. Well, things have changed. Benefits administration and private exchanges have converged to create Ben Admin 2.0. After all, technology and service go hand-in-hand, and you shouldn’t have to settle for less than the best of both. Ben Admin 2.0 delivers a personalized employee experience and a powerful backend—coupled with an upgraded service experience to ensure you and your employees receive the level of support you deserve and expect.   

Benefits are important to employees, yet 80 percent of companies report low benefits knowledge amongst their employees. The fact is, employees need a simple way to understand and effectively manage their benefits. Ben Admin 2.0 is designed to offer a hyper-personalized, comfortable experience, marrying both tech and service, that takes the “scary” out of the process and empowers employees to manage their benefits with confidence.

Of course, this technology not only needs to look “pretty,” but it also needs to deliver functionality that provides you with the peace of mind knowing that your benefits program is running true to your company’s vision and strategy. The good news is that Ben Admin 2.0 is a modern and simple way to administer your employee benefits without unnecessary features that overcomplicate and are impossible to navigate.

For instance, (me)BENEFITS ADMIN 2.0™ was designed to make managing tasks (i.e., processing changes in marital and dependent status) more intuitive. Now, life events and other changes like these can be made automatically and accurately. It also recognizes that each employee’s benefits knowledge and personal preferences are different. (me)BENEFITS ADMIN 2.0 provides decision entry points to meet your employees where they are by providing “doors” to help them navigate to the best plans. Employees choose their preferred path to finding their best plans through the use of such tools as Shop by Doc™, mSCORE™ and the “show me all plans” options.

It’s so much more than an upgrade in technology.
No doubt, there has long been a need for an update in HR technology. In fact, a recent Maestro Health™ study found that 27 percent of HR professionals want to say a final “goodbye” to systems that don’t talk to other systems and 16 percent are ready to get rid of their never-ending paperwork and lack of automated processes. But it takes the right partners to fill the gap when it comes to service, too. With Ben Admin 2.0, the concept of tech or service has been thrown out. It’s all about tech AND service. In fact, tech-meets-service is the norm for Ben Admin 2.0.

Ben Admin 2.0 providers don’t consider themselves to be just a “vendor.” They approach Ben Admin as a partnership and consider themselves an extension of your benefits team. This tech-meets-service approach includes dedicated account managers and client service teams that are available year-round, not just during implementation.

You no longer need to simply settle for a technology vendor. Instead, you can now choose a partner that effectively demonstrates both tech and service. A partner who collaborates with you in managing your employee benefits program.

Why this upgrade matters to HR.
Your world is changing—with constant legislative changes, rising costs, the growing popularity of High Deductible Health Plans and increasing expectations of your workforce—you need benefit administration technology and a partner who recognizes and embraces these changes. Doing so will effectively position your benefits program and your business for success.

As the role of HR professionals continue to evolve from transactional to strategic, you need a solution that enables you to leverage your most important asset—your talent. Ben Admin 2.0 brings all the tools you need together for you and your employees at one destination for managing their overall health and financial well-being.

The new era of Ben Admin has arrived, and it’s ushering in a new approach for HR technology to solve long-standing HR hassles. If you have questions, you’re not alone. Join me on June 6, where I’ll be answering questions alongside Carrie Marquardt, Benefits and HR Solution Practice Leader, Maestro Health. 

Goodbye, Complicated Ben Admin

By Sheryl Simmons, Chief Human Resources Officer

Benefits Administration has had a reputation for far too long of being complex and confusing – not just for employees, but for HR professionals too. How did that become acceptable as the status quo? Employers have been manually processing eligibility changes. They’ve struggled with Ben Admin platforms that promise to make their lives easier but, in reality, are navigational mazes. In this day and age of technology, HR deserves better. If you’re still doing it old school, it’s time to say goodbye.

Later, mountains of paperwork.
Last year, Maestro Health™ conducted a study asking HR professionals where they spend most of their time. The number one response – processing administrative paperwork. If you’re an HR professional, you’re well aware that an abundance of time is not a luxury we have. Yet, we continue to trudge through manual processes that lead to headaches, along with creating a frustrating experience for employees.

We know employees are also ready to ditch these paper-based methods. HR pros know that handing over a stack of forms to new hires for completion on day one is not an ideal start to onboarding. “Welcome to this fantastic new career opportunity. Please fill out this pile of paperwork, and make sure your writing is legible so you don’t have to fill them out twice.” How’s that for a warm, fuzzy welcome? In fact, 69 percent of employees will likely remain with a company if they experience what they consider a great onboarding process. That stat alone is enough for savvy HR pros to say a final goodbye to paper processes.

See you never, complicated Ben Admin systems.
I often compare signing a new vendor to being setup on a bad blind date. Your hopes are built up by the recommendations of others and the promise of a great experience, only to get a dose of reality when your date shows up and they’re nothing like what you expected. Check, please!

The myriad of features that sounded so great when they sold you a high-tech experience turns out to be difficult to navigate and not customized to your HR needs as promised. Employees are frustrated with the cumbersome enrollment experience. Your boss is questioning your judgment for buying the system. And you’re left wondering why you didn’t just stick with mountains of paperwork. If this is hitting too close to home, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In that same Maestro Health study I mentioned earlier, we asked HR professionals to name their biggest headache. The top answer – disparate systems.

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With the constant legislative changes and ever-evolving landscape of healthcare in general, we shouldn’t have to deal with systems that can’t keep up nor make things more complicated than they need to be. HR tech vendors shouldn’t be pulling the bait-and-switch on us. A few weeks ago, I told a vendor, “Could you just not suck?” True story. HR professionals need business partners – not vendors. We need HR tech solutions that are willing to partner with us to simplify the already complex world of benefits, not sell us even more complicated systems. 

Goodbye, Ben Admin as you know it.
I think it’s safe to say that the traditional methods of benefits administration just aren’t cutting it anymore. At one time they were appropriate –  but so were floppy disks and cassette tapes. But times, they are a changing. So enough already. It’s time for Ben Admin vendors to stop acting only as a “vendor” and deliver on their promised partnership to ease the burden on HR professionals and creating a consumer-like experience for employees. Skip the bad blind date. The next generation of Ben Admin is coming this spring and it’s not just a vendor – it’s your new business partner. Be among the first to see it when it arrives.

4 HR Tips From A CMO

By Lauren Metsig, Chief Marketing Officer

Employee benefits play an important role in our lives. But let’s be honest, they have a bad reputation for being incredibly complicated (and boring). When people hear they need to make a policy change, review new options or choose a new plan altogether, eyes immediately begin to glaze over.

As a marketer, I desperately wanted to change that. I knew there had to be a way to strip away the complexity and humanize the benefits process in a way that helps people understand it. After all, most consumer brands have mastered the art of connecting with consumers in ways that are entertaining and emotionally engaging. For ages, marketers have found ways to make the most snooze-fest topics, somewhat interesting. Because, that’s our job as marketing professionals—to get into the minds and hearts of our audiences and find a way to speak to their pain points. There’s no reason why we can’t do this for employee health and benefits.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with many HR leaders in producing employee communication campaigns (that actually work!) on all types of benefits-related subjects—from FSAs to general open enrollment. Below are four tips I’d recommend to HR professionals interested in thinking more like a marketer when it comes to engaging their employees (with benefits communication and tech).

WARNING: About one minute into the below, you will probably start thinking "who has time for this, Lauren?  Who has the staff or the resources for this?  Lauren, you're off your rocker."  And that's where your vendors and creativity come in to play.  First, always ask your vendors to help (because they should be willing to help you).  Second, just start with adopting one "tip" and try to integrate it into your next communication plan--and then, build from there.   

1 Focus on the experience.
The first step any marketer takes before tackling a new campaign is to consider the best way for your audience to digest the information you want them to see. Of course, as an HR professional you likely already use tactics like posting information in high-traffic areas, like break rooms or near time clocks. However, since no one really looks at those 8.5 x11 posters on the bulletin board, you’re probably not getting the results you want—that’s when a multi-channel approach becomes really important. 

This means thinking about how your people prefer to consume information. If your organization is “email happy” and sends way too many emails for everything, then you probably don’t want to use email as your only source of communication. One of the quickest ways to get information to your people is through their phones. After all, if you look around, you’ll see it’s not just millennials who have their eyes glued to their smartphones – it’s everyone. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, reported that 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, with adoption quickly rising amongst people in lower-income households and adults over the age of 50. By using a simple text messaging service, like EZ text, you can quickly send a message to your people to remind them of benefit meetings, open enrollment and even wellness tips. You can also include a link to a form or open enrollment website to further the engagement. 

The experience of consuming information and education goes way beyond communication channels—it also includes your HR technology, like your benefits enrollment experience. If your enrollment is online, you should be asking questions like—Is it intuitive?  Does it provide your people with easy-to-understand decision support tools? And if your employees are still enrolling on paper, then I would highly recommend you switch to something online—for your sanity and the sake of your employees’ experience.

2 Data, data, data.
HR professionals have access to a wealth of employee information. (If your company is self-funded, your vendor can provide you with even more information, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.) Dig into that data to segment your audience and craft a communication plan that speaks directly to them. You can use this data to fuel personalization of your campaigns, messages and technology.

For example, if find you have a significant employee population that is married, chances are they may be making their benefits decisions with the help of their spouse at home. Consider creating a communications strategy that also engages their spouse through direct mail (…and no, snail mail is not dead. You just need to use it strategically). Try sending them a postcard at home with open enrollment information or reminders to use their benefit accounts—then you're not relying on your employee to share all the communications to their spouse.  

If you find yourself thinking, “Well, I don’t have a data analyst to help.” Don’t worry—ask your vendors to help. Often, your benefit vendors will help you segment your population at no cost. If that doesn’t work, then ask your employee population what they want using a service like, SurveyMonkey. It’s a really simple tool to figure out how your employees like to communicate, what they like about their benefits experience, and what they don’t.

3 Get personal.
Use the information you discovered in your data to your advantage when communicating and personalizing the enrollment experience to make it more dynamic, rather than repeating the same messaging to each employee. One option is to make the path through online enrollment dynamic, shaped around your employees’ demographic and health needs. If you have a segment of employees that typically opt for High Deductible Health Plans, consider presenting them with benefit accounts (HSA/FSA) information earlier in the enrollment process, such as near the voluntary offerings. Also, try personalizing decision support and just-in-time education in a way that makes sense to the enrollee during the election process—if you make multiple tools available, each person can choose a path that works best for them. (Once again, ask you benefits administration vendor or broker for this!)

This kind of personalization during enrollment and beyond will help build an engaged audience from the onset of the benefits year. Not only will your people be satisfied and happy during enrollment, but you will receive less questions and headaches throughout the year.

4 Make it human.
Again, as an HR professional, you know your employees better than anyone at your company. You speak with them daily, so you already have a leg up that most marketers would envy. Ask them about their pain points. Watch their body language. Find out what makes them tick. Then, use that information to craft your messaging, and you’ll likely see your engagement increase trifold.

We’re all human (hopefully). If information is too technical, boring or dense, we tune out. Interactions are more meaningful when they’re engaging. People assume health and benefits will be boring, and when you’re starting with that expectation, it’s even more important to design marketing campaigns that are personalized, engaging and relevant.

Join me on April 19th at HBLC where I’ll be joined by Laura Chambers, Director of Office of Employee Benefits at University of Texas System to present, “Thinking Like a Consumer Marketer at the University of Texas.”

 

7 Signs You Need to Break Up with Your Benefits Vendor

By Jeff Yaniga, Chief Revenue Officer

Breaking up is hard, especially when it comes to a self-funded benefits vendor. It’s like changing your bank—no one wants to go through the hassle. That’s why you get stuck paying ridiculous fees and dealing with awful customer service. This brings me to my point. Sometimes, we just get so used to things being awful that the pain of a break up doesn’t seem worth it. However, when you finally hit your boiling point, that temporary pain of parting ways is worth it in the long run. If you’re considering a break up with your benefits vendor, below are seven signs why it may be worth the pain. (Sorry, Cupid.)

1. They’re not flexible to your needs.
I’ve seen this happen a lot to clients who are self-funding through large medical TPAs. They’re given rigid plan designs and aren’t willing to work with the unique needs of a company. While this may be the way larger medical TPAs are accustomed to self-funded benefits, this one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for most employers today. If you’re in this boat, it may be time to research medical TPA vendors that are flexible enough to personalize their services.

2. Their tech is stuck in the 1980s.
Outdated tech systems seem to be a trend amongst Mom & Pop-style medical TPAs. Their technology lacks depth and isn’t designed with the scalability to meet the needs of larger companies. Luckily, some medical TPAs are upgrading their tech and offering more than just online enrollment like user-friendly mobile apps, data analytics and employee decision support tools.

3. They take all your money.
The cost of employee health and benefits is expected to continue climbing in 2017 – no matter what the future holds for the Affordable Care Act. In fact, it has been predicted that fully-insured companies can expect an 8.2 percent rate increase for 2017. As a result, many companies are calling it quits with their current benefits strategy and moving to a self-funded option as a way to cut costs and increase their plan options.

4. Their idea of customer service breaks your heart.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had new clients say to me, “just suck less than the other guys.” Talk about heartbreaking. Of course, they’re referring to their old vendor’s customer service. HR professionals and their employees deserve an empathetic professional to guide them through whatever issue they’re facing. If you do break up with your vendor, don’t accept the same poor service. It’s time to raise your standards – take a look into customer care metrics, like first call resolution rate, and take a look to see if they have their own Client Experience division. Both are signs of a vendor who has their priorities in place.

5. They’re not data smart.
Data analytics are practically a gold mine for HR departments. They can help a business drive down the cost of claims and increase employee engagement. Technology has advanced in self-funding to offer tools available that can flag employees who are exhibiting signs that their health may be at risk, triggering early intervention and eliminating future costly claims.

For example, one of our self-funded clients had a member who was struggling with her diabetes. She was using outdated equipment and her blood sugars were elevated, so one of our Nurse Coaches enrolled her in the Diabetes program, referred her to a dietician and helped her secure new equipment. This helped the employee lose weight and control her diabetes, while also helping the company proactively reduce claims.

6. They don’t seem trustworthy.
I know some HR professionals who have experienced their vendor letting them down so many times that it’s just now an expected occurrence. In fact, they plan for it. They plot out dates when they expect it to happen and strategize how they’ll deal with it. If you’re dealing with this type of vendor-Stockholm syndrome, then you’re long overdue for a break up.

7. They don’t play well with others.
The vendor struggle is real. Managing separate vendors for health plans, benefit accounts and benefits administration can be messy, not to mention put you at risk for errors and gaps in coverage. Modern, all-in platforms can help simplify this nightmare by providing the solutions you need in one easy place for you to manage. You deserve the full package—or at least a vendor who can customize your own HR suite to include all the automated HR functions you want and need. 

As the wise Dr. Phil says, “you teach people how to treat you.” If any of the above scenarios are hitting too close to home, it may be time to kick that vendor to the curb, and research options that better fit your needs.

Join me on February 22nd at 1:00 pm CT, for an Employee Benefit News webinar I will be moderating – Hottest Trend of 2017: The makeover of self-funded benefits.

How to speak (benefits) to any generation

By Sheryl SImmons, Chief Human Resources Officer

I don’t know about you, but it drives me crazy when I read articles that just list the stereotypes of millennials and baby boomers without giving any useful information. Not all millennials are entitled. Not all generation X employees are lazy. Not all baby boomers are out of touch. In fact, they have much more in common than you might expect. There are great people who are born in each of these generations. So it’s time we stop and ask ourselves – are the stereotypes really generational or are they situational?

When I was asked to speak on bridging generational gaps at last week’s Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE), I made it my mission to provide information that people could incorporate into their benefits process that acknowledges unique generational situations. While we did have a lot of fun discussing stereotypes, we all learned a lot about how to use that information to change the way we speak about benefits in regards to each generation’s situation.

How to speak millennial (when it comes to benefits).
During open enrollment, it’s important to take into consideration that this may be the first time many millennials are signing up for benefits. This makes education key, as they’ll likely be unfamiliar with even the most common terminology, and they will be looking for coaching from those who have been in the workforce longer.

An online, consumer-like shopping experience is also a must. Millennials were raised in the age of technology, so naturally they expect to shop for their employee benefits just like they shop for everything else – online. However, it’s not enough to just simply have an online shop for benefits enrollment. They expect it to be intuitive and people-friendly, which benefits shopping has historically been the opposite. If your tech vendor isn’t providing this, it may be time for a change.

To speak like a millennial, one must also think like a millennial. If you’re no longer in your twenties, just think about one of the biggest concerns you had while first entering the workforce – how to get money in the bank. In fact, many millennials are drowning in student loan debt. Here’s a scary fact – the class of 2016 was expected to have the most debt, an average of $37,172. With that in mind, consider a personalized approach to educating millennials about their most financially beneficial options. For example, provide them with information on benefit accounts, like a Health Savings Account, and the advantages they offer when paired with a High Deductible Health Plan.

How to speak generation X (when it comes to benefits).
Unfortunately generation X has become the forgotten generation. While there are approximately 55 million people in generation X, they are overshadowed by millennials and baby boomers in the media. However, this is no reason to leave them out of your benefits communication strategy.

Just like millennials, generation X employees expect an online shopping experience, but they want their benefits experience to come fully loaded with resources. They expect online tools, like cost calculators and blogs to assist them in their research, because they tend to be more self-reliant (their generation coined the term "latch-key kid" after all).

Another trend amongst generation X employees is that they value choices, especially if it provides them with an added feeling of safety. In fact, generation X employees demonstrate more of an interest in voluntary benefits, like vision and even pet insurance, than their millennial and baby boomer counterparts. They’re also just as interested in financial wellness as their millennial counterparts – they’re struggling to eliminate their credit card debt and are losing sleep because they're leaning on their retirement funds for day-to-day living expenses.

How to speak baby boomer (when it comes to benefits).
While baby boomers are getting older (every day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65), that doesn’t mean they’re ready to ease into retirement. In fact, many baby boomers are heading down a second career path. So don’t make the mistake of leaving baby boomers out of your benefits communication strategy.

While it’s typical for people to assume that baby boomers aren’t as tech savvy as younger generations, this doesn’t mean you should completely discount their tech skills. In fact, a third of baby boomers consider themselves heavy internet users. They’re also into their tech gadgets – 33 percent of all tablets are owned by adults over the age of 50. So you can expect them to turn to the web as part of their benefits election decision making process. Baby boomers will arm themselves with information by consuming content, like webinars, videos and blog posts.

Just because you can count on baby boomers to do their homework online, that doesn’t mean you can forgo face-to-face support or printed materials. They still value in-person support and the opportunity to ask questions. If your HR department doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide this type of support, there is still a way for you to offer this employee assistance. Tech vendors that offer a robust, personalized enrollment experience that includes onsite enrollment services is the ideal solution, as it provides support on multiple channels.

Take your (benefits) speak to the next level.
Consider everything above the multi-generational language 101 synopsis. But the conversation (pun intended) doesn’t need to end there. As I mentioned before, I presented on this topic during HBCE last week. I covered the simple ways to take this generation specific info and easily apply for any HR department by “thinking like a marketer.” You can download the full presentation here or tweet me @Maestro_Simmons if you’re looking for more advice on boosting your communication strategy. And for those of you who attended the session at HBCE, be sure to like Maestro Health on the “Bookface.”

ACA Executive Order Issued by President Trump: What this really Means.

by Carol Rito, VP of Product Compliance and Development

On Friday, January 20th, President Trump issued a one-page Executive Order relating to the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).  The order is basically symbolic.  It is broadly drafted and gives no specifics about which aspects of the law it is targeting and has no immediate effect on employers.

The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services, other departments, and agencies, to exercise all available authority and discretion to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision of the ACA that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.  Employers are not among those explicitly listed as requiring protection from regulatory burdens. 

The broad language gives federal agencies latitude to change, delay or waive provision of the law that they deem overly costly, essentially, dismantling of the law even before Congress moves to repeal it.  However, any revisions of regulations already issued through notice-and-comment rulemaking, still requires the agencies to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). 

Under the APA, agencies cannot rescind existing regulations until they engage in a new notice-and-comment rulemaking process, which includes required public comment periods and delayed effective dates.  In other words, it makes it difficult for President Trump to overturn final regulations which have already been implemented.  Only regulations that haven’t taken effect can be suspended, so the President’s chief of staff has instructed federal agencies to cease issuing new regulations and withdraw rules that have been sent to the Office of the Federal Register until they can be reviewed by the new agency heads.

From an individual perspective, while the directive gives HHS wide latitude when granting hardship exemptions from the individual mandate, it does not waive the requirement for individuals to maintain minimum essential coverage. 

From an employer perspective, until further regulatory guidance is released, the final regulations implementing the employer mandate and its reporting requirements remain in effect and are subject to enforcement by the IRS.  In fact, the IRS recently indicated that it intends to begin notifying employers of their potential liability for an employer shared responsibility payment for the 2015 calendar year.  Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees and sponsors of self-insured health plans should continue preparing to comply with the ACA’s Form 1094 and 1095 reporting requirements. 

Now that President Trump has taken initial action on the ACA, it may ease the pressure on Congress to attempt an immediate repeal or find an immediate replacement.

ALERT: Phishing Email Disguised as Official HIPAA OCR Audit Communication

By Jim Martin, Vice President of Security and Compliance

HHS reports a phishing email is being circulated using a mock HHS Department letterhead. The phishing email appears very official, and bears the signature of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Director, Jocelyn Samuels.

The attackers are targeting employees of HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates.  Since OCR is the HHS office managing HIPAA audits, these privacy-sensitive professionals are likely to open such an email. 

The email asks the recipient to click a link that claims to provide information about possible inclusion in the “HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Rules Audit Program.”  Once clicked, the link directs individuals to a non-government website marketing a specific private sector firm’s cybersecurity services. HHS has not authorized any such use and is taking the unauthorized use of this material by this firm very seriously.

The quality demonstrated in this phishing attack provides an example that others may use, providing an attachment with a link to a virus, a web page with hostile code or simply providing a form for the recipient to complete “for the audit” to provide an attacker more information for social engineering. 

Risk Assessment 
We rate this potential threat as High to Maestro Health™, our employees and partners. This can easily be reduced to a Low risk with prompt education and awareness.  Please share this with your organization and help get the word out to all individuals that may be affected.

What You Should Do:

·      Should you or your organization have a question as to whether you have received an official communication from Maestro Health,. please contact your Maestro Health relationship manager directly.

·      Should you have a question about whether you have received an official communication from HHS, or OCR regarding a HIPAA audit, please contact HHS via email at OSOCRAudit@hhs.gov.

·      For more information regarding the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Rules Audit Program please visit: http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/audit/index.html.

·      Sign up to receive HHS Privacy and Security alerts directly from HHS, which we highly recommend at https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/list-serve/index.html.

Maestronites' "CAN-Do" Attitude to End Hunger

During the month of November, Maestronites in offices nationwide answered the call to help put an end to hunger by collecting canned goods for donation to the following local charities:

Of course, the competitive natures of Maestronites really kicked in full-drive once word spread that another “CAN-struction” competition would be taking place during the office Thanksgiving potlucks. 

Here's the final tally for the total number of canned goods donated by each office:

  • Charlotte collected a total of 370 cans.
  • Chicago pulled together a total of 416 cans.
  • Detroit gathered a total of 50 cans.
  • Orlando donated a total of 65 cans.

This resulted in a total of 605 pounds of food donated (that’s over 100 pounds more than last year’s event).

"While competitiveness does seem to be a part of each Maestronite's DNA, the true spirit behind our can drive is just as meaningful. Helping people lead healthier lives is part of what we do at Maestro Health, no matter the season," said Rob Butler, founder and CEO of Maestro Health™.

The winning office of the "CANstruction"event was (drumroll, please) – Chicago. Their take on the Word Series trophy was chosen by our sole judge and board member, Mike Balmuth.

Check out the offices in action below.

 

Joe Maddon’s Guide to Culture

By Rob Butler, Chief Executive Officer, Maestro Health

If you’re not in Chicago today, you’re missing out on something special. The energy in this city is like something I’ve never seen and it’s safe to say it’s due to one team, the Chicago Cubs. It’s no secret that Joe Maddon’s (the Cubs Manager) approach to culture deserves a lot of credit for the team’s recent success. In fact, I’m not sure I ever remember a time when I’ve heard the media focus so much on a manager’s approach to team culture, the way they’ve focused on Joe Maddon’s. This just proves how invaluable instilling the right culture, whether for a sports team or a business, is to success. So with that in mind, I’d like to share a few of my favorite “Maddon-isms” that I believe relate to the Maestro-way.

Pressure. Expectations. I want our guys to thrive on those two words for the years to come."
Joe told his team, “Why would you ever want to be in a situation that doesn't require a little bit of pressure added to it, or expectations…I would not want to go into a season having zero expectations and zero pressure applied to you because you're going to finish fourth or fifth in a division.”  At Maestro, we agree. We have a saying that we live by, “adversity is inevitable, stress is optional.”  We embrace and talk about the tough issues rather than brushing it under the rug. This is a smart way to approach anything in life, but it’s definitely the Maestronite attitude.

“Try not to suck.”
Sure, this is a favorite Maddon-ism of many Cubs fans – that’s why they put it on a t-shirt. At Maestro Health, winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. This message is strong at Maestro Health, as you’ll never meet more competitive people, but we do it with fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we take what we do and our business seriously.

“It’s not going to be an oil painting every night. You cannot be perfect.”
Failure is only human. It’s what you learn from your failures that matters. Just look at some of the best hitters who hit a slump in the World Series, only to turn it around and push the Cleveland Indians to game 7. We also encourage Maestronites to be balanced and share their failures just as they would their successes. This is reality and transparency.

It’s clear that Joe knows what he’s doing and it works. He’s led the team to their most successful season ever, and they’ve clearly been having fun the whole time. I hope the culture that we’ve built at Maestro Health will have the same success. 

 

 

By Nancy Reardon, Chief Product Officer

If you’re looking for a new technology partner, I’m going to assume you’re not looking to add hours of work to your already heavy workload. Shifting to a new tech partner is going to require support, especially since your employees are going to be interacting with the technology every day. It’s imperative that your tech partner has a heart for more than just tech. The vendor should have a tech-meets-service approach with every solution it offers.

Choose a partner who supports you (and answers your employees’ questions for you).
We all have our preferred methods of communicating. Some of us won’t hesitate to pick up the phone, while others much prefer digital communication. So, why settle for just one type of a support line? If a tech vendor truly takes customer service seriously, it will offer multiple lines of support from licensed professionals, year-round, not just during open enrollment.

Find out if the vendor goes beyond just phone and email assistance. For instance, a live chat feature is ideal for employee benefits technology. It offers employees an immediate response to questions they may have during the online enrollment process. This support can help easily guide them through the next steps, instead of you.

Of course, it’s only natural that your employees will have questions about their benefits as they use them throughout the year. Rather than answering the same questions regarding deductibles, dependents and dental throughout the year, be sure your new vendor has your back after open enrollment ends.  

Pick a partner who will show up for you.
Let’s be real. Not everyone is comfortable with technology. For the less tech-savvy employees, it’s beneficial to have a vendor that truly offers personalized services, like onsite enrollment support, from licensed professionals. This will ensure that all employees feel comfortable and secure with their benefits enrollment.

Do a background check on your partner.
No, I’m not suggesting that you hire a private detective. That would be a bit extreme. Instead, request several customer contacts to reach out to and ask about their experience. This will help you learn if their tech actually solves real HR headaches and if they are as true to their word about customer support. (Tip: if they won’t provide you with customer contacts, that’s a big red flag.)

Never settle.
It’s easy to get swept away by a seemingly fancy, high-tech experience, but it’s important to not let that distract from the details of a true tech partnership, like true customer support. Of course, there are other things to look into when vetting vendors. For more details on how to find a tech partner you <3, download our full whitepaper, here.

Top 5 #HRTechConf Must-Sees

By Lauren Metsig, Chief Marketing Officer, Maestro Health

This will be my first time attending the HR Technology Conference & Expo and I really can’t wait. Considering it is one of the world’s largest HR tech conferences, there’s no way I’ll have the chance to check out everything. So after an intense research session, I pulled together a list of the top 5 must-sees, that are really too good not to share.

1.     Women in HR Technology
The conference will be kicking off Tuesday, October 4th, with the Women in HR Technology session. This is a first for an HR technology conference – and I am so pumped. The session will showcase a powerhouse of tech execs who will be sharing trends, challenges and inspiration for women in the industry. If you’re looking for some motivation, this is a definite must-see.

2.     Ink Factory™
Leave your laptop (or moleskin) in your hotel room. No need for fervent note taking. The General and Mega sessions will be graphically recorded by artists from Chicago-based Ink Factory™. If you’re not familiar with Ink Factory , you should be. They send their talented artists to conferences and company meetings, to help bring the content to life by sketching the talking points in real-time. HR Tech Conference attendees will be able to download high-resolution images of all the Ink Factory notes at the Maestro Health™ booth (#1427). While you’re there, be sure to have a chat with an artist (they will be at the sessions and in their booth) and watch as they bring your #benefitsjourney to life.

3.     The 2nd Annual HR Technology Conference Hackathon
Really, how can a tech event not have a hackathon? This one will feature up and coming HR tech programmers, competing to create the winning HR solution in just 48 hours. It’s like the marathon of the HR Tech Conference. The teams competing will demonstrate how their solutions can solve real-life HR challenges and attendees will help choose the winner on Thursday, October 6th.   

4.     Getting the Most Value from the Vendor Demo
Let’s be real. There’s going to be more than 400 companies at HR Tech. Chances are at least one of them is going to catch your eye. It’s probably in your interest to come prepared before you check out their demos. I would suggest attending the session, “Getting the most value from the vendor demo: The experts will tell you how.” The session is on Thursday, October 6th, where they’ll have a panel of experts sharing the inside scoop on the must-knows for your next demo. Combined, they’ve run thousands of demos, so they probably know their stuff.

Speaking of demos. You may want to check out a demo of a new Maestro Health product at booth #1427. In fact, it’s so new that HR Tech attendees will be the very first to check-it out. It’s called maestroEDGE | HR™ — an automated Talent Management solution. It takes care of the on-boarding/off-boarding process so you can actually focus on new hires. Plus, it integrates will all of the other Maestro Health solutions.

5.     HR Gives Back
HR Gives Back, is back. They’re continuing their admirable mission of helping the HR tech industry make the world a better place. This year they’re raising funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and The American Heart Association. Their goal is to reach $100,000 in donations this year. Just be sure you don’t get too swept away by all the fun and forget to throw some money their way.

So there you have it, the main highlights of my research dive into the HR Technology Conference & Expo. (I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning.) Of course, once we arrive I’m sure I’ll uncover much more, so follow along on Twitter @maestrohealth and #HRTechConf.

See the #benefitsjourney at the 2016 HR Tech Conference & Expo,
October 4-7 in Chicago, IL.

Visit booth #1427 to be one of the first to see a demo of our new On-boarding/Off-boarding & Talent Management solution, maestroEDGE | HR™.

Learn More.

How to Improve the Benefit Customer Experience (for all)

By Lauren Metsig, Chief Marketing Officer, Maestro Health

ICYMI: Originally posted by Broker Innovation Lab

Open enrollment season is upon us. It’s busy. It’s exciting. And for many people, it’s a real headache. After all, this is the season when you’re swamped – providing plan designs, negotiating premiums and offering expert guidance. Your clients are drowning in paperwork and can’t catch their breath because they’re dealing with endless employee questions. In fact, employees are so confused they sometimes just choose a plan by asking what their cubicle neighbor picked. (Seriously, I know too many people who do this.) But, never fear. Where there is chaos, there is opportunity.

Customers are smarter than ever.
And they’re paying more attention than ever to the level of customer service you’re providing. That’s why marketers are so concerned with the concept of the “user experience” – a buzzword that’s making everybody nervous about connecting with customers. Truth is: It’s a real game-changer when it comes to increasing sales and keeping customers loyal. This approach doesn’t exclude those of us in the B2B space. In fact, in a 2015 Accenture study, ninety percent of B2B execs expressed their intention to maintain or increase their spending on customer experience. (How often do you see 90 percent of people agreeing on anything, especially when it comes to healthcare?)

READ MORE.

 

 

By, Rob Butler, Founder & CEO, Maestro Health

Take a look at any job board and I guarantee you’ll see the same five words repeated over and over again: talented, driven, dedicated, innovative, ambitious. (Repeat.) Far too often companies tend to vet candidates for one other quality: the “thinks like us” quality. That’s a dangerous habit to get into and it can often become detrimental to a company. At Maestro Health™, we steer clear of this. After all, who wants to sit in an echo chamber of ideas? That’s why we focus on one of our core values during the hiring process – Biz-Love.

If you’re scratching your head right now and thinking, “what is he talking about?” you’re not alone. That’s usually most people’s reaction when they first hear the term. So, what is Biz-Love? Our team interprets it as unbiased, unconditional, accept you as you are – love. Yeah, I should probably elaborate.

Just as every company must legally claim to be an, “Equal Opportunity Employer,” Biz-Love actually drives this concept. It’s the act of treating every person with respect, regardless of their background or beliefs. It’s the state of maximum humility and the standard goal for all Maestronites.

Biz-Love fosters a culture that is truly inclusive and respectful of everyone. All Maestronites are encouraged to raise their hand and share their thoughts – regardless of their race, sexual orientation, political, religious beliefs or professional role. In fact, this cultivates bold thought (another one of our core values) and an empathetic team. It eliminates the threat of a herd-like mentality.

Maestronites are comfortable being themselves while respecting others to do their thing. Biz-Love prevents petty gossip, maligning or judgement from ever entering the workplace.

I’m a firm believer that while adversity is inevitable in today’s fast paced, competitive workplace, stress is optional. Emotionally-sparked, bad decisions are a product of the stressed. No one wants that. Consider the Biz-Love approach for your hiring process, and existing employees for that matter. It encourages a relaxed mental attitude and bold thinking, which are both key factors for success.

See the Biz-Love in action at the 2016 HR Tech Conference & Expo,
October 4-7 in Chicago, IL.

Visit booth #1427 to be one of the first to see a demo of our new On-boarding/Off-boarding & Talent Management solution, maestroEDGE|HR™.

LEARN MORE. 

By, Sheryl Simmons, Chief Human Resources Officer

There’s no two ways about it. Data analytics are now a fundamental component to developing a high performing workforce. The sheer volume of data passing through HR at a rapid-fire pace is staggering. But, there’s a challenge: harnessing the power of the data to provide a bridge that connects HR to the business strategy. No pressure, right?

Workforce analytics: A CHRO’s true love
When workforce analytics are done right, it’s gold for HR. It can identify talent shortages, leadership gaps and employee engagement levels. Analytics can even provide personalized forecasting and a myriad of other key findings to alert HR of an undetected trend before it becomes an emerging crisis.

If your company hasn’t yet mastered the wizardry of using HR data analytics to its full potential, you’re not alone. According to PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO survey, 73 percent of CEOs are increasingly worried about finding the right talent with the right skills. Meanwhile, 36 percent of HR professionals believe they don’t have access to analytics for a clear picture of their workforce. Think about that. For every third person reading this blog, one of us is losing sleep over the digital transformation of our industry.

HR professionals have long married fact-based and gut-based decisions. Being skilled at both is simply a must-have in our industry. However, far too often we’re lacking the facts and end up only able to go with our gut. Today’s technology can help us fill that gap. Integrated systems can provide data representation of the whole picture. The challenge then becomes capturing the right data out of the gate. 

Digging into the (right) data
The right data is far more than a survey or a single on-boarding session. It’s more than buying technology, crossing your fingers and hoping it works. It’s critical that our technology provides us a partner we can really fall in love with. It’s key that the people building the technology take it to heart that each business is unique and thus has unique needs, so a one-size-fits-all solution simply won’t cut it. A true technology partner doesn’t treat HR professionals as just clients. They understand that each HR professional they work with should be treated as a consultant, to help them get to the heart of the data that’s actually needed for their company’s goals.

Bring it on
It really is amazing to watch the data evolution the HR profession is experiencing. The momentum is accelerating.  It’s optimizing the future of work. Fragmented data is being harnessed to produce predictive analytics. The antiquated is now becoming innovative. If the technology you’re using isn’t arming you with the data to create an optimal workforce that solves business challenges, now is the time to find a new solution that can empower you to do so. No pressure, you’ve got this.

Meet Sheryl at the 2016 HR Tech Conference & Expo, 
October 4-7 in Chicago, IL.

Visit booth #1427 to be one of the first to see a demo of our new On-Boarding/Off-Boarding & Talent Management solution, maestroEDGE|HR ™.

LEARN MORE.
 

4 SIGNS YOUR CLIENTS ARE STUCK WITH A RETRO TPA

By Nancy Reardon, Chief Product Officer, Maestro Health

ICYMI: Originally posted by Broker Innovation Lab

The cost of healthcare has become a major concern for both employers and employees. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of employer-sponsored health plans is now rising seven times faster than wages. Add this to the increased administrative burden for employers to remain ACA compliant, and it’s no wonder there’s such a demand for new solutions that offer cost-savings and workload relief. The market is ripe for modern medical TPA services, so here’s a list of warning signs to ensure your clients aren’t getting stuck with the retro version of a TPA.

READ MORE.

Maestro Health Crowned One of Chicago’s #CoolestCompanies

Last night, a team of Maestronites attended Chicago Inno’s Chicago Fest. Games were played. Food trucks were visited. Many, many selfies were snapped all before the final event we were anxiously awaiting, the crowning of Chicago’s Top 11 #CoolestCompanies. As a team that lives and breathes the core value of humility, it was surreal and exciting as the crowns were placed atop our heads. But in all honesty, there’s really no argument from any Maestronite of just how cool our company is.

Here’s just a few of our mTEAM members weighing in on what they think makes Maestro Health the coolest…

“The best part about this company is the people. Their brilliance, drive and compassion means that coming in to work each day is a pleasure. This is hands down the best group of people I’ve ever worked with. I get better every day simply because I don’t want to let any of these amazing people down.”  

- Jason Weiss, Executive Vice President of Technology

“Everyone feels valued here. It’s amazing that Rob, our CEO, puts out cheese and refreshments for us almost every Friday, in addition to the free lunches on Tuesday and Thursday. We also celebrate Maestronites who have just had a new baby, acknowledge an intern’s contribution to the organization’s growth and we learn about new Maestronites’ favorite snacks and pet peeves, even if we’ve never met. We take fun seriously and we always have each other’s back.” 

– Ruiyan Liu, Marketing Data Analyst

 “The perks are great, but the real reason I love to come into work is because of the people around me.”

– Heather Nykamp, Corporate Branding Coordinator

“Maestro Health is the kind of place I am excited to invite my friends and family to come for a visit. It’s way more than a workplace, it’s a living place.”

 – Ernie Harris, Executive Vice President of Business Development