Setting the Data Standard for Voluntary Benefits

Setting the Data Standard for Voluntary Benefits: An Interview with The Hartford

Voluntary benefits have become a core component of a well-designed, comprehensive benefits package for employers of all sizes, and there are certainly numerous products and vendors to choose from. The broker community often lends a hand in helping employers select the products that best fit their workforce.

However, implementing and managing these benefits can be a significant challenge when there are no standard file formats for data exchange between the voluntary insurance carrier and the employer's enrollment system. This adds another element for brokers as they work to find a carrier with products that are 1) easy to enroll in, 2) easy to understand and 3) can integrate seamlessly with enrollment systems to make sure data gets to the right place at the right time.

The BENEFITFOCUS® Certified Carrier Program was created to standardize the data exchange process for voluntary benefits, making it easier for employers to provide a more robust benefits package. 

The first carrier to join the program was The Hartford, a leading group disability and voluntary insurance provider. We recently interviewed Mike Fish, Senior Vice President, Head of Group Benefits Product and Strategy at The Hartford, to hear how this new standardization is making an impact in the industry.

Here's what he had to say:

Benefitfocus: What is the perception in the market today around data integrations in the insurance industry?

The Hartford: The ability to integrate with the multitude of benefits enrollment vendors has become a necessary part of doing business. The carriers that differentiate themselves are the ones that focus on making the data integral to a seamless service, administration and claims experience. 

Benefitfocus: Why have data integrations with the carriers been so challenging?

The Hartford: Specifically, ancillary carriers have legacy systems that are not always as flexible with some of the file formats introduced by some of the newer enrollment systems. The carriers also have systems that don’t speak to each other, which, in the past, has required the client to send numerous files to feed multiple systems. That is why creating data standards is so crucial. They allow us to streamline our operational processes, and place less administrative burden on our customers, creating a less frustrating experience.

Benefitfocus: What has The Hartford done to change that perception?

The Hartford: The Hartford continues to invest in our group and voluntary benefits' capabilities through innovative technology and targeted partnerships designed to enhance the customer experience, making it easier to do business with us. The Benefitfocus Certified Carrier Program is a great example, where we’ve partnered to develop a tool that enables our customers and technology partners to send data in one file and the tool will map the data to various systems.

Benefitfocus: Why did you decide to partner with Benefitfocus?

The Hartford: We've experienced a dramatic shift in how we bring our products to market, and partnering with Benefitfocus gives us another way to simplify the enrollment and administration of these products for our customers. As we continue to expand our products and services in the benefits market, the standardized, repeatable file sharing process enabled by the Benefitfocus Certified Carrier Program helps make it easier to distribute these offerings to our customers in a consistent and consumer-friendly manner. 

We also see the value in how Benefitfocus delivers, communicates and manages products on their platform, as well as how the accounts are serviced. Their teams are well-versed in our product set and are able to help connect the dots along with the broker to align on business strategy for the employer. 

Benefitfocus: What is the value of your Certified Carrier Program to the carrier, to the broker and to the employer?

The Hartford: For us, the carrier, establishing repeatable data integrations and single sign-on (SSO) connection helps us work more efficiently, while improving overall customer satisfaction. That operational efficiency is also extended to the broker and the employer. Reduced implementation times, higher employee engagement and reliable, timely data exchange are the real values shared by all stakeholders. 

We’ve all dreamed of data standards for the insurance world, and now we’re finally seeing progress.

Benefitfocus: What has been the feedback from the brokers?

The Hartford:  One of the first questions we now get asked from the brokerage community is, “Tell me about your technology strategy.” 

They want to know who we're connected with so they can emphasize the value of those partnerships with their prospects and clients. Brokers realize that if a carrier is integrated with a particular vendor, they can often provide their clients an easier implementation with a potentially shorter timeline, fewer burdens on HR resources, and oftentimes a better administration experience for them and their employees.

The integration we have in place with Benefitfocus allows us to provide our clients eligibility, SSO for evidence of insurability (EOI), telephonic life claims, leave, and port and conversion, all with just one file. That brings considerable peace of mind to companies who continue to have challenges around negotiating multiple file feeds on a routine basis. Our goal is to help simplify the administration, and our partnership with Benefitfocus allows us to do just that. 

Also, we recognize that the employee enrollment experience is one of the main considerations for employers. So, if we can deliver a better employee experience as part of our technology strategy and relationship with a tech vendor, it's always a positive! The fact that we can offer SSO for EOI, with real-time decision-making and election amounts properly posted on benefit confirmation statements, makes it a better employee experience. This is an important consideration for our broker partners and their clients. 

Watch the video above to hear more about how The Hartford is partnering with Benefitfocus to help brokers and the employers they serve deliver a better benefits experience for employees!

Find out more about how Benefitfocus partners with the broker community directly to simplify benefits administration for employers and their employees.