Benefits Enrollment: When You Get to See How Broken Health Insurance Is

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Oh boy, please don’t get me started on this…

This is the time of year when HR benefits folks get a smile on their face. If you have your stuff together, from a benefits standpoint, it’s around August and early September that you begin meeting with your insurance companies and brokers about 2012 benefit rates.

We should just start calling these benefits “increase” meetings because in 20 years of HR, I’ve never been with a company where we met with our insurance partners and the rates went down! (and that is actually factual!) I somewhat envy true benefits administrators and managers because I could never do what they do, or want to. It’s a true life calling. It’s not really HR and it’s not really finance – it’s somewhere in the middle of hell.

For benefits people, this is a great time of year

Benefits folks love this Open Enrollment time of year. They’ll tell they don’t and they can’t wait until it’s over, but let’s face it, it’s the only time of the year anyone in the organization listens to them, so you know they like it!

They get to have the big planning meetings with the finance folks and senior leadership to determine how they’ll pass on the costs to the employees, yet still make it seem like we are giving them more. Many of these benefits folks will get to travel to cheap hotels and meet with groups of employees in hour-long segments, and its probably the only time they leave the office all year. To be sure, it’s a special time in the Benefits World.

So, this week I got to sit with our insurance broker to see how bad our insurance carrier was going to jack up the rates (picture me sitting with fingers crossed saying over-and-over “please don’t be double digits, please don’t be double digits, please don’t be double digits…”). I like brokers; they were the first ones to teach me “under promise and over deliver,” which has worked well throughout my career.

Our broker didn’t disappoint. The day before the meeting he called and said the sky was about to fall and you might have to close your doors, the rate increases were probably going to be around 3 to 4 THOUSAND percent! Then he showed up walked in the conference room and before he even sat down said “9 percent” – and I was happy! Who the hell is happy with 9 percent?! I was – because he did a great job at preparing me for the worst.

The current system, and the one that is coming, just don’t work

Here’s the problem: the current system, and the new health care reforms system that is coming, just aren’t sustainable for employers. Insurance is too expensive and too complicated, and unless you’re a Fortune 500 shop, you don’t have the chops in-house to really make sense of it all.

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Insurance starts to feel less like a benefit and more like something that is about to happen to you – but not in a good way. It’s not like the feeling you get as a child when Christmas is about to happen. No, it’s more like the feeling you get as a child when your newly divorced mom brings home “Uncle” Kevin to spend the night; it just doesn’t seem right.

I don’t have a solution for you kids. It’s broke, it’s broke way bad – and health care reform isn’t going to come close to fixing it.

So HR Benefit Pros, when you’re put traveling, skip the Courtyard because they no longer give you a free breakfast. Check out Holiday Inn Express, or Embassy Suites, or any place with free drinks at the nightly “manager’s reception.” You’ll be a lot happier, I promise.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.