Benefitfocus works on modernizing benefits industry

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published May 7, 2014

The Affordable Care Act continues to change the landscape of employee benefits, and Benefitfocus is working to adapt, President and CEO Shawn Jenkins said today at the company’s annual One Place conference in downtown Charleston.

The Daniel Island-based technology firm’s theme for 2014 is “Benefits for the Whole Workforce.” The health care act’s individual mandate makes everyone eligible, Jenkins said.

In response, the company revealed HR InTouch Marketplace, which provides employers with a platform to manage benefits for an entire workforce regardless of an individual’s eligibility for company-sponsored coverage.

It expands options for enrollment in voluntary benefits and employee-specific enrollment workflows configured for full-time, part-time and variable workers, as well as retirees.

“From a product investment strategy, everyone is now eligible. From there, we then figure out what they’re eligible for, unpack their benefits and communicate with them,” Jenkins said. “It’s a very exciting time to be in the benefits industry.”

The HR InTouch Marketplace also has a mobile application with which consumers can see their coverage, deductibles, copays and benefits from their mobile devices.

The app also has a mobile document center which allows users to take a photo of a document, such as an insurance card or birth certificate, and save it for their administrator to access, which speeds up the enrollment process. Many banks use this technology to enable users to deposit checks from their phones.

“You can see all of your benefits in one place at any time ... It’s such a way to drive efficiency and I think it’s going to save everybody a lot of time,” said Shan Fowler, Benefitfocus’ product management director for marketplaces.

Jenkins and several Benefitfocus employees made seven announcements this morning to hundreds of employees, partners and customers gathered in the Charleston Music Hall. Currently, the software company provides cloud-based benefits software to more than 23 million consumers.

This year’s offerings work to improve user experience, simplify the employers’ benefits administration processes and help consumers find the best deals. The industry demands more value-based benefits technology that’s personalized for each person, Jenkins said.

The Whole Workforce Edition and Benefitfocus Carrier Marketplace platforms are set up like an online, guided shopping experience, similar to shopping online at major retailers.

Consumers can set up profiles, compare plans, check eligibility for subsidies and pay bills online through the portal.

“In a few simple steps, I shopped for benefits, paid for benefits and set up recurring benefits in a way that feels a lot like the shopping I’m used to,” said Suzi Pigg, a solutions engineer at Benefitfocus.

After logging in, each home page is personalized based on whether a consumer is a retiree or a part-time worker, for example.

“The advent of marketplaces ... promised consumers more choice, and now we have an incredible number of options available,” Jenkins said. “That is good. Benefits are good. However, now there is equal if not more responsibility on the part of the consumer to make the right choice for their individual health care and financial needs.”

Jenkins also announced the Benefitfocus Implementation Program that enables third parties to be trained on the company’s platforms for project management, testing and integration in an effort to quickly scale support for the millions of newly eligible benefits customers.

Accenture has signed on for the program to deploy Benefitfocus’ products to insurance carriers, benefits consultants and employers.

Additionally, Deloitte Consulting, Aasonn, HRchitect and ROC Americas will also participate by supporting employer implementations through the configuration and loading of employer data onto the platform.

“We really are just getting started here,” Jenkins said.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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