UBP blog


3 ways to enhance your dental plan’s value through communication

For employers who want to improve the value of their dental benefits, making plan changes is just part of the solution. Effective communication is the next step, and this means providing employees with the meaningful information and tools necessary to understand both their dental benefits and oral health risks.

According to a recent MetLife survey, only 1 in 5 employees know what their dental insurance does and does not cover. This lack of employee knowledge oftentimes results from lackluster employer communication of dental benefit offerings.

The following are three ways employers can enhance their communication of employees’ dental benefits.

   1.      Promote the importance of oral health and educate employee on oral health risks.

Data from MetLife’s survey also revealed that just 9% of employees believe they have beneficial information on oral health available to them. Yet, 28% of employees believe that this information would be of value in helping them understand dental benefit offerings. Employees who know most about their oral health are the ones that are most likely to utilize their plan’s covered dental services.

To educate employees on oral health and oral health risks, employers can create a pamphlet, memo or web resource, distribute it to employees and also make it readily available for them to access on a later date. 

   2.      Provide complete information on employee coverage.

The survey data also shows that only 35% of employees feel that they have all the information they need to make the best decision on their dental coverage. This means employers have a huge opportunity to educate the remaining 65% of employees with complete coverage information. That way, all employees will understand their benefit offerings, appreciate them and have fewer surprises about what is and is not covered when they get their Explanations of Benefits.

  3.      When communicating benefits, use multiple resource

Most employers believe that email and the company website are the most effective tools for communicating employee benefits. Although these tools are great ones to use, employers should not stop there.

Employers should also develop alternative ways to educate their employees on their benefits, dental benefits included. In-person and online seminars  as well as oral risk assessment tools are just a couple of the resources employers can use to round out their dental benefits education.

By applying these three methods, employees will feel the value of the dental benefits you are providing. As a result, their understanding and appreciation of the dental benefits they’re offered will grow.


When it comes to communicating employee benefits, no news is the worst news you can give

Filed under: employee benefit communication — ubpblogger @ 9:15 am
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In spite of this, many employers are currently giving employees no news on their benefits. Data from the report Watson Wyatt 2009/2010 Communication ROI reveals that just 28% of companies plan to increase communication on employee benefits.

The report’s findings paint an even bleaker picture from the employee end of the spectrum. Case in point, 54% of employees nationwide (that’s more than half of all working Americans) have not received any communications this past year from their employers about their company’s current benefits or future plans regarding their benefit programs.

Two possible reasons for this are as follows:

  • Many company leaders feel it’s not their responsibility to communicate employee benefits
  • Many other leaders within companies are opting to simply communicate the negative effects of the current economic recession to employees, and nothing further.

What should be done?

As the economy remains weak, companies should reassure employees of the positive offerings still available to them. For example, if money at your company is tight yet you’re still able to offer employees a robust benefits package, why, then should you not communicate this to them?

Also, we all know that in difficult economic times, change (whether positive or negative) is inevitable and no company is completely immune to it.  Employers can reduce or possibly eliminate fear and confusion in the minds of employees caused by major changes if they do the following:

  • Sufficiently prepare employees for changes they’ve anticipated
  • Let employees know what will stay the same
  • Make sure employees know what is expected of them

Why is this employer-employee communication necessary? 

If employers fail to communicate vital benefits and company information to their employees, they risk losing their trust, making them feel undervalued or even leading them to search for other employment.

Providing employees with information about their benefits and keeping them in the loop regarding company developments, good or bad, gives them a sense of understanding and aids in their overall motivation. With no news at all, employers create a void between themselves and their employees that will ultimately hurt their organization.

So, when it comes to discussing employee benefits, it’s best for HR professionals to keep the lines of communication wide open.


Can employers demand access to tax and bank records to determine benefits eligibility?

This question was raised recently in The Boston Globe by an employee of a large private company. Employees there were told not too long ago that they’d have to submit tax returns and bank statements to verify their dependents’ benefits eligibility.

The employee who raised the question expressed concerns that it wasn’t legal and/or appropriate for employers to demand access to these private documents. He or she also cited the fact that employees can choose not to comply with this employer request, but was concerned about the possibility of losing health coverage as a result.

Reason for concern:

As web technology becomes more advanced both proving and protecting identities will get more challenging. This will be an issue for both employees and employers.

Verifying benefits eligibility involves several different parties (employers, employees, insurers and various government entities at times) all with different needs for information. Employers will need to find a way to prove their employees’ (and their employees’ dependents) benefits eligibility while protecting their identities at the same time.

The issue discussed in The Globe calls into question a couple of things:

1. Can (and should) an employer demand access to tax and bank documents to verify benefits eligibility?

According to an employment lawyer cited by The Boston Globe, employers may demand access to these documents, but can only get access with an employees’ consent, the attorney also suggested that before giving their employers consent to access private information, employees should first consider the purpose behind the information request. What is the employer trying to verify?

Are there other documents employees can present that will verify this?

For the particular case in question, employees can offer to present documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses to verify benefits eligibility of their spouses and dependents.

They could also present the required documents but request that their employers not make and retain a copy of it. Or, they could give employers copies of the documents with personal information (i.e. bank account numbers) blacked out.

2. Can employers deny health insurance coverage to employees who don’t comply with this demand?

The answer to this question is technically “yes.” Employers are not required by federal law to offer health insurance to their employees. However, in Massachusetts, if they don’t offer employees coverage (or similarly if they take away an offer of coverage), they’ll need to pay a penalty.

Another tactic for discouraging employees to take health insurance that covers spouses and dependents is to subsidize as little as legally required of the premium. Employers who approach “family” health insurance in this way want their employees’ family members to get health insurance elsewhere, perhaps through a spouse or state programs. That is a different agenda than employers who simply want to verify spouses’ and dependents’ eligibility so they are not unnecessarily paying to insure people who don’t qualify for their plan.


UBP President and CEO becomes the First-ever Massachusetts Broker included in Altus Dental’s Annual report

Filed under: universal benefit plans — ubpblogger @ 9:29 am
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Edan Barshan, President and CEO of Universal Benefit Plans is featured in Altus Dental’s newly-released 2008 Annual Report. He is the first-ever Massachusetts broker to be featured in the Annual Report of the fastest growing dental plan in the Commonwealth for the past seven years. This is especially significant not only because Altus Dental has experienced membership growth rates of more than 52 percent in the past year and currently has the largest Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) provider network in Massachusetts, but because both Altus Dental and Universal Benefit Plans think alike in several different ways.

We both share a commitment to flexibility and custom benefit plan design. When providing employee benefits solutions to clients, both Universal Benefit Plans and Altus Dental take the approach that all clients’ needs are unique. We fully realize that it is essential to work hard in providing clients with the plan design that meets these needs most effectively.

Universal Benefit Plans takes this approach one step further by customizing and automating the administration of clients’ benefits with our most recent innovation, The HR in a Box™. This time and cost-savings tool streamlines benefit administration saving employers valuable time and money, educates and empowers employees with 24/7 self-service access to comprehensive benefits information and makes full compliance with the upcoming Massachusetts data encryption law affordable for small-to-mid sized firms.

As Altus Dental Inc. continues to grow and approaches its projected 2009 levels of 100,000 members strong, Universal Benefit Plans is proud to partner with them as a broker in their commitment to delivering creative, custom solutions to group dental insurance needs.

The 2008 Altus Dental Annual Report is accessible online at http://www.altusdental.com/report08/2008_Altus_Dental_Annual_Report.pdf.

Go to Page 7 to read what the hardest working and fastest growing dental plan in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had to say about Edan Barshan, Universal Benefit Plans and our dual-encrypted HR Management tool, The HR in a Box™.

Benefits identity theft skyrockets. Are you safeguarding personal employee data in your HR department?

Filed under: Massachusetts encryption law — ubpblogger @ 9:26 am
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The Problem:

In 2008, a record 79 million identity thefts occurred in the United States. According to a report by the Alexander Hamilton Institute, an estimated 50-70 percent of these thefts happened in the workplace. Employee benefits documents—and employee files in general—contain all of the information necessary for an information thief to steal someone’s identity.

Benefits identity theft can come both from within the company (i.e. a temporary employee working in HR who has access to employee information files a reimbursement account claim as someone else) or from outside of the company (i.e. an employee’s online statement gets hacked and the hacker wipes out all of his or her retirement savings with the click of a mouse).

What the experts suggest:

Benefits identity theft is a problem that employers often overlook until it is too late. Employers should therefore create and put into place a policy for the safe handling of sensitive data, from its collection to its disposal. All paper personnel files should be secured with combination locks. If your company maintains electronic personnel files, work with IT to ensure that all such records are encrypted and password protected.

To protect your employees from reimbursement account theft, you should keep signatures of all employees on file so that you can be prepared to audit a suspicious looking reimbursement check. You should run reports of your company’s newly-terminated employees so that you can audit cancelled reimbursement checks in their names. For greater protection, only send reimbursements through direct deposit to an account that you have verified belongs to the correct employee.

Enhanced, double-encrypted HRIS solution FOR FREE:

The HR in a Box™, Universal Benefit Plans’ A to Z HR and benefits management solution, is a dual-encrypted time- and cost-saving tool for small-to-mid size enterprises. With The HR in a Box™, not only will your company eliminate the time-consuming and costly practice of manual benefit administration, you will also be able to rest assured that all of your employee benefits data is secure. The HR in a Box™ also generates reports of employees terminated as far back as you want them, making the process of auditing cancelled reimbursement checks an easier one.

To learn more about how having The HR in a Box™ can help your company or to schedule a free product demo, visit http://www.universalbenefitplans.com.


Productive employees know how much they’re worth.

Filed under: employee benefit communication — ubpblogger @ 1:13 pm
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Productive employees also know the total cost of each individual benefit given to them. Knowing the complete value of their benefits leads employees to complain less about the benefit-related costs they incur. For instance, an employee may complain that he or she is required to contribute 100 dollars per-month to medical insurance coverage. However, when that same employee realizes that the 100 dollars is merely 10% of the total cost of the plan, he or she will appreciate the employer’s contribution of 900 dollars that much more than before. More than likely, this new level of appreciation will cause the employee to complain considerably less.

A simple way of calculating employee productivity involves taking an employee’s output and dividing it by an employer’s input (i.e. labor costs, hours worked). The components that go into an employee’s total output generally include performance related variables (i.e. dollars in sales, units produced) as well as measures of workmanship, adherence to company rules and regulations and the absence of complaints. If fewer complaints means higher levels of employee output and employees who know their worth make fewer complaints, it is plain to see that a clear, comprehensive benefits communication plan increases employee productivity.

The HR in a Box™’s Total Compensation Statements are designed to clearly communicate each employee’s net worth to a company in terms of salary plus employer contributions for each individual benefit. Tabular and graphical cost break-outs allow both verbal and visual learners to view the total picture of their benefits and compensations.

Isn’t it time your employees stopped taking your contributions towards their benefits plans for granted?


Has your company embraced the new technologies and communication tools needed to attract and retain top Generation Y talent?

Generation Y adults and future working adults, drawn from among the individuals born between 1979 and 1999, increasingly view their jobs and a means of building transferrable skill portfolios and leveraging them across various industries and positions.  Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation X employees, these individuals are less likely to be loyal to one company for their entire professional careers. The US government has predicted that by the age of 38, the average Generation Y working professional will have had upwards of 10 to 14 jobs. 

Generation Y workers expect the workplace to be a supportive environment where goals are clearly articulated and feedback is immediately available. They are tech-savvy, voracious researchers with the ability to access a limitless supply of information with the click of a mouse.

Generation Y employees are also financially savvy. A September 2008 survey conducted by Diversified Investment Advisors revealed that 37% of Generation Y workers expect to start saving up for retirement before they turn 25. Further, 49% of Generation Y workers say that retirement benefits are a very important determining factor in choosing a job.

Is your company prepared to address the needs of an increasingly more inquisitive and empowered workforce? Generation Y employees will have many questions about their benefits packages Can your company’s HR Manager answer them with clarity and accuracy?

Findings from the 2007 Career Builder Gen Y at Work survey showed that 87% of hiring mangers and HR professionals say that some or most Generation Y workers feel they are more entitled in terms of compensation, benefits and career advancement than are older generations.  Are you prepared to engage in informed interactions with Generation Y employees about compensation and benefits?


The Gen Y at Work survey also revealed that 49% of HR professionals and hiring managers feel that the most pronounced difference in communication between Generation Y workers and those from earlier generations is that Generation Y workers communicate the most via electronic means.


The HR in a BoxÔ helps companies embrace the influx of Generation Y workers into the workplace because it integrates the solutions to three key Generation Y expectations: technology utilization, research capabilities and comprehensive benefits information that HR professionals can communicate with ease.


Baby Boomers are retiring, and many Generation X workers are opting out of long hours. This leaves Generation Y workers in high demand. The HR in a BoxÔ will help your HR Department manage this rapidly growing pool of diverse human capital with unique needs. 

Universal Benefit Plans brings the HR and benefits-management capabilities of the Fortune 500 firms to small and mid-sized companies. It eliminates manual benefit administration and empowers employees through 24/7 access to comprehensive benefits information with the click of a mouse. The HR in a Box™’s double layer encryption ensures that all your company’s personal data on file is protected an secure. Visit our website and click on the “Products” tab to learn more about how The HR in a Box™ can benefit your company.



The HR in a Box™ HR Forums allow employers to tap into seasoned policy and compliance expertise.

No HR decisions concerning policy violations or job performance ever occur in a vacuum.  Wrongful terminations are often grounds for legal action, especially when injury, illness and disability are involved. HR Managers face complex scenarios every day, especially given the current economy where cost cuts and layoffs are occurring more frequently than ever. 

The HR in a Box™’s HR Forum allows experienced and novice HR professionals alike to make complicated judgment calls backed by the advice and support of HR experts. The Forum’s most vibrant participants make themselves available and accessible to answer your toughest questions based on prior knowledge and past experience.  Do you ever feel uncertain because the HR decisions you’re making for your company are based on zero precedent? With the HR Forum, this will no longer be the case. Many of our participants have been human resources professionals for more than a decade and can speak from multiple experiences with your most taxing situations.

HR Forum participants are employed in all 50 states so state-specific discipline, performance, termination and policy issues can be accurately addressed on a state-by-state basis. Do you know the subtleties of your state’s employment laws and regulations? If you’re unsure about these, let our Forum experts clarify the essential information for you. Think of the HR Forum like being back in school only now, when you have a question, thousands of “teachers” from across the nation will hear you ask it.

Universal Benefit Plans’ leading-edge employee benefits and HR management solution The HR in a Box™ not only strengthens your HR decision-making capabilities through expert opinion and accurate, up-to-the minute information delivery, it also eliminates manual benefits administration, empowers employees through 24/7 self-service access to clear and comprehensive benefits communication and serves as a mechanism for uniform delivery of HR communication.


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