Effective Benefit-Integration Practices

It's easier to sell an integrated program when there is ongoing senior management support.

Just managing non-occupational disabilities was a big deal six or seven yearsago. But to combine that effort with occupational disabilities, now that was anovelty.

Since then, virtually every benefit-integration practice that employers haveintroduced has brought a high level of satisfaction, says William P. Molmen,general counsel for the Integrated Benefits Institute. To catalog thosepractices, IBI released “A Survey of Integrated Benefits Best Practices” inJanuary. The report represents 103 employers with an average of 8,700 employees.

About 77 percent of employers integrated benefits to manage employeedisability. They did this by combining workers’ compensation, short-termdisability, and long-term disability so each area is managed in the same manner,whether or not the disability is work-related. Family Medical and Leave Actadministration is almost always part of integrated disability management. Abouthalf of these IDM programs integrate or coordinate group health with disabilityprograms. This often means managing the treatment needed to shorten disability.

Three top practices
    The most effective integration strategies are return-to-work, integrated casemanagement, and common claims intake. Some of the most common practices areamong the least used, the report said. These include same-performance outcomemeasures, ICD-9 medical diagnosis codes for occupational and non-occupationalmedical records, interactive voice response for disability reporting, and helpfor injured employees obtaining Social Security disability benefits.

Other effective but costlier practices include empowering one corporate unitto make all purchasing decisions, linking the company’s integrated claims datasystem to the human resources or payroll data system, and using a singleinsurance broker or consultant to integrate the programs.

Lessons learned
    If they could do it again, the employers said, they would approach someaspects of benefit integration differently. About half would first enlist seniormanagement support. “Our case studies show that it’s always easier to sellthe integrated program to supervisors when there is ongoing senior managementsupport,” Molmen says.

Major corporate reorganization is not necessary to implement integration, thesurvey found. Most employers began incrementally by consolidating andintegrating claim management–such as single claims intake or a transitionalreturn-to-work program regardless of injury cause. Some employers also said theywould have created database resources for planning and monitoring integratedprograms. Others would have spent more time and resources on employee training.

Workforce, December 2002, pp. 50Subscribe Now!

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