[Podcast] Criteria to Use When Shopping - Health Insurance Simplified

Hollie and Carlos recording podcast

In This Episode

In this episode of Health Insurance Simplified. we focus on health insurance fundamentals and criteria to use when shopping.



Alan Helgeson (Host): Small business owners know that success depends upon making every effort to beat the competition, nurture customer relationships, and find and retain the best talent. This means you already wear a lot of hats, including sales, marketing, human resources, and often health insurance provider.


I'm Alan Helgeson, and this is Health Insurance Simplified. Today, our focus is on health insurance fundamentals and criteria to use when shopping. In this episode, you'll learn how to select the best health insurance provider for your needs and the kinds of things to look for when you want to select the best partner for your business. Joining me are Hollie from Sanford Health Plan and Carlos with CRC capital group. Welcome.


Hollie Scott: Thanks for having us, Alan.


Carlos Cobos: Thank you, Alan.


Host: Carlos, it's likely the number one factor for small business owners when considering health insurance, wondering how much is this going to cost me?


Carlos Cobos:  I'm meeting with small business owners, and they ask me that. Again, one of the phrases we use a lot is "on average." And on average, we see employee benefits costing an employer anywhere from $2 to $4 an hour per employee. So on average, if your benefit package costs $2 an hour, that's $4,000 a year, $4 an hour, about $8,000 a year. And so what it comes down to is offering employee a package where I can offer you $20 an hour, no benefits, or I can offer you $18 an hour and pay for a portion of your health insurance from Sanford and the employee often likes that, especially if he doesn't qualify for a tax credit, if he doesn't have other options to obtaining affordable health insurance, and he needs to get himself covered, he needs to get his family covered, then being able to go somewhere where an employer is willing to say, let me help you because your wellbeing, your health, your family is important to me, brings a strong message to the employee.


Hollie Scott: And I think Carlos, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's more than just dollars for employers, too. It might cost them time as we talked in our last episode about retention, right? The employer's going to have to spend more time on talent searching. So it's more than just the premium. It also might come down to if they don't have a good health insurance plan in place for their employees, it might cost them sick days because they're not getting the preventive care. So it's more than just premium when it comes to cost for the employers.


Carlos Cobos: Or if you have multiple employees, the one employee that doesn't have the health insurance that insists on coming to work sick and then gets everybody else sick, and then you have more downtime.


Host: Carlos, we all know the business landscape changes quickly, and it seems that way for insurance, too. So when a business owner is looking for an insurance provider, it's probably about much more than cost. What other types of things should they consider as well?


Carlose Cobos: As a broker, I know having a relationship with a number of insurance carriers, having an insurance carrier that is responsive, that is willing to answer your emails and phone calls in a timely manner is of utmost importance because our customers are depending on us to answer their questions in a timely manner. So when you have a partner like Hollie at Sanford Health Plan, that is able to answer those emails that is able to answer those phone calls and get things done in a timely manner, that's what's most important. And I think Sanford does it probably better than anybody.


Hollie Scott: On top of our responsiveness, we do also, you know, we'd like to take that administrative burden off of our employers as well. So we have employer toolkits that you can get your questions answered right from that webpage, right? In that toolkit, we have other services like our preventative care. We follow the ACA guidelines on that. So your employees can get their preventative care in a timely manner. All those things add up to cost of your health insurance.


Carlos Cobos: Sanford also does a great plan in communicating with their customers. They don't overly communicate and clog up anybody's email. They don't send out a bunch of junk mail, but when there is something that is changing, whether it is the American Rescue Plan Act, whether it's changes in COBRA, whether it is something else that is going to affect their health insurance, Sanford does a great job of communicating that to the business owners, to keep everybody aware so that they're always in compliance. There's not going to be any surprises for that business owner or for that employee when they go to use their health insurance. Everybody knows what's going on. Sanford does a great job with not only being responsive, but also communicating any changes that are coming down from Washington.


Hollie Scott: And that's part of our Sanford Simplify. So with our Sanford Simplify, our small businesses all have an account executive. So those account executives are working every day. Watch those regulations to make sure that the small businesses are staying in compliance. You know, our COBRA administration for our small groups, we want to just make sure that we take that burden off of our small employers, that they, they have somewhere to go when they buy our health insurance to get those questions answered. And that helps so that they don't have to spend hours of their time finding those answers on their own


Host: Couple of things that stood out to me in our last episode, and we wanted to mention these words, Hollie and Carlos. The words "advocate" and "administrative burden."


Hollie Scott: As a small business owner, you're not going to want to spend hours of your day, trying to figure out what benefits are best. You know, we have advocates like Carlos in our broker field that work with it every day. So you don't have to study and figure out, "what do deductibles mean? What did co-insurance mean?" Carlos and our other brokers can sit with you and talk through those. They can, you know, ask you a few questions about the type of employees you have, the employees that you want to cover on this health insurance. And from there, they can help guide you where to go. So that takes that administrative burden off of you as a small employer. It takes that benefit hat and kind of shrinks it. So it's a cowboy hat down to a baseball hat for you. Our brokers, we pay our brokers so you don't have to. It's free. So that's another great benefit of our brokers and taking that administrative burden off of you. You don't have to pay for it. And they're awesome help.


Carlos Cobos:  When looking at the paperwork, you'll see a lot of deer in the headlight looks, whether it is from the employer or the employee. And it's something that as brokers, we have seen that application for years now, and we know what information the carriers need. We know what information goes in the blank, and we know how to fill out those forms. We know how to do things online, and we can escort a person from the beginning all the way through implementation. And then that's really when the relationship starts doing the paperwork is just the beginning. But then as a broker, our relationship starts once the paperwork is done and we start moving things forward. And that's when the real beauty of working with somebody like Sanford comes out, is that communication, that responsiveness, that efficiency and brings a great value to the table.


Host: Carlos, over the last year, it's been a wild year, we witnessed the importance of being flexible when it comes to how, when and where we get services of all kinds. Let's talk about the role of, for example, virtual care in health care. How have people and insurers like Sanford Health Plan adjusted to be more flexible in these times?


Carlos Cobos: Sure. Over the past year, there have been a lot of people displaced from the traditional workplace. And one thing that people are all agreeing on is that flexibility is here to stay. The traditional office space is not going to be the traditional office space anymore. And being able to have an office visit from your home on your iPhone is getting to be more and more normal than scheduling an appointment. And actually going to the doctor, using tools such as the Sanford MyChart are getting to be more and more normal than calling the insurance company and looking for that information. So that information is there. Those tools are there, and those tools are here to stay.


Hollie Scott: And we've really heard from our members that the value that e-visits and video visits through MyChart have really made us stand out in the market this last year. It's just so much easier. All my insurance is all in my MyChart. My doctor visits can all be right in there. It's easy. And it's fast. We've heard from small businesses. We've heard from our members that they really value having that flexibility right from their phone to be able to go and do that e-visit or that video visit.


Host: What does this look like when we're talking virtual care and we get beyond COVID?


Carlos Cobos: Well, I think with the, for example, the Sanford MyChart, when I went and got my vaccination shots, I was able to do all of the checking in or paperwork right there on my phone from my house, sitting in my chair so that when I actually went to the visit, gave it my name, birthday, they looked me up and they saw that everything had already been completed. I was able to walk right past a lot of other people, standing at the stations, having to answer questions that hadn't pre-checked in. So I think moving forward, we're going to see different tools like that, that are going to be real time savers in a world where everything is in such a time crunch anymore. Being able to do things on your phone like that, being able to have an e-visit right there on your phone, rather than having to go someplace, answer the questions, sitting the waiting room, you're going to be able to do it right there when it is convenient for you. It works around your schedule rather than you having to work around everybody else's schedule.


Hollie Scott: And pre-COVID, Sanford Health Plan, we were already committed to the virtual visits and the e-visits, but COVID really made us step up, seeing that value. We know that in the future that this is the way it's going to go. We have a Tyto kit, right? So that they can bring those in and have a doctor's visit right at their place of employment. So they don't have to take their lunch break and drive across town. They can do it right there. So COVID has really taught the health plan. We need to be flexible with those types of visits. And so every day we meet and we talk about how can we make this a better experience? And integrating that into MyChart really has helped. And for the future, I think employers are going to really see more value in it as we continue along with our flexibility.


Carlos Cobos: That just goes with the employer and employee having concerns about their wellbeing being under those sustained levels of stress. And whenever they have a health insurance plan that integrates with their health insurance carrier, with the apps, with the visits, then they're able to reduce those level of stress, know that they're going to be taken care of and know they can get the care when they need that care.


Hollie Scott: And I think that's the message Carlos, that we want these small employers to know is that we care about them. We're not just here to collect the premium. We're here to offer the care that you and your employees need. We want the flexibility for your employees. We want them to be able to take care of themselves when they need the care and still be able to work if they need to. Because a lot of small employers, they might have lower income families working for them, right? Where if they miss two hours of work, that's a big deal. And so at the health plan, we understand that we know that the small employers need that flexibility. And so, as I mentioned earlier, every day, we're thinking of new ways to become more flexible and keep those e-visits and video visits more accessible.


Carlos Cobos: Sanford's done a good job of removing those barriers to access and health care. So rather than having to take time off, drive to a doctor, schedule the appointment, get yourself ready, they've removed that barrier and I can do it on my phone. I can schedule everything right there when I need to. They've done a good job with that.


Host: Hollie, oftentimes when we hear a Sanford Health Plan, we also hear that it's an integrated part of the Sanford Health system. What does that mean? And why would a business wish to partner with an integrated health system?


Hollie Scott: As an integrated system, what that means for our members is more seamless claims filing, right? So your claims are being paid quicker than if you had a different carrier. We have access to your providers. So we have it streamlined for your appointments. So things like that, where the member might not necessarily see it upfront — it's happening in the background. This last year, we did a lot of education on the COVID, right? So we took our doctors from the system, and they gave us more information to communicate out to our members. Other carriers that aren't integrated might not have that ability to really drill down into their provider network.


Carlos Cobos: There are other barriers to accessing health care — scheduling, timing, time away from work, things like that. And with Sanford's integrations, they're able to start chipping away at those barriers where they're not trying to keep people from using their health care. They're making it easier for people to get the health care they need when they need it. And along with that, as part of that integration, you know, I've helped several people. When they have questions about their EOB, they have questions about their bills, and when you have an integrated health care system and you're talking to the insurance carrier that knows what the hospital is billing for, then it becomes really easy to understand what it is that EOB means, what it is that that bill is actually showing them, what is telling them. And it is easier to help somebody read the statements that they get from Sanford concerning their health care. It makes it a lot easier on everybody. And it's not that they are questioning the bill. They don't understand what they're seeing. And when you have an integrated health system and being able to talk to somebody at Sanford, it relieves that stress level on that person that has received that health care when they understand their bills.


Host: So much good information. I want to say, thank you to our guests, Hollie and Carlos, for taking some of the confusion out of the kinds of things that really can impact the cost of employer-provided health insurance. And remember, as the market evolves, it's not just dollars and cents. Your health insurance provider should be a partner in caring for your employees, as well as an advocate, when you need access to care.

If you'd like to know more about the options through Sanford Health Plan, visit SanfordHealthPlan.com/employers. You can also call (877) 305-5463, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM central time. This info is also in the show notes for this episode. For Health Insurance Simplified, I'm Alan Helgeson.

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