EaseCentral, makers of a cloud-based HR and employee benefits technology platform, recently launched a way for small businesses — those with 100 employees or fewer — to save an enormous amount of time in getting new hires signed up for insurance benefits.
The platform utilizes what’s known as an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) connection that enables the instant transfer of information using a standardized electronic format that has been in place since the 1970s.
Streamlining Benefits Enrollment
How EaseCentral’s EDI Platform Works
In a telephone interview with Small Business Trends, EaseCentral CEO David Reid explained how EDI works and the benefits it provides small businesses.
“Currently, small businesses and insurance brokers are faced with the challenge of compiling data manually into spreadsheets and presenting materials in a digestible format,” Reid said. “With this current model, employees are lost in the process of finding the best and most tailored health care options for them with clear and definitive pricing.”
EaseCentral’s cloud-based software platform makes employee benefits simple and manageable by offering an automated paperless enrollment process and providing an easy onboarding and offboarding solution, Reid said.
“What used to take two to three weeks to process through the use of paper forms can now be done in minutes online,” he said. “Employees get their ID number in an instant, making them eligible to take advantage of their benefits immediately.”
Up to now, use of EDI connections was the purview of enterprise organizations, which have lots of data to transmit at any given time.
“Large companies save time with EDI because no one wants to key in information for 1,000s of employees,” Reid said. “But that’s not efficient for a small business with, say, 12 employees. The insurance carriers don’t want to create an EDI connection that takes more time to build than handling paperwork, especially when the business may not have a single enrollment in a year. It’s just easier to do paperwork.”
Reid went on to say that if you could take tens of thousands of small businesses and put their data into a single file, you have the economies of scale that large companies have enjoyed for years — which is exactly what his company did.
“That’s where EaseCentral broke the ice,” he said. “We’re now live with a limited group of providers but plan to expand to include others over the next few months.”
Reid said this new technology changes the landscape of what benefits purchases and management is going to be like in the next few years. He predicts that a transition will take place within the next 36 months to where EDI is the norm for how small businesses manage employee benefits enrollment.
Those that have adopted its use say the efficiencies, cost savings and consumer response are “overwhelmingly positive,” Reid said.
“EDI is the future of this business for small companies,” he said. “Large enterprises have been doing it this way forever. Now, it’s available to small businesses, starting in California and expanding to other states over the next few months.”
EaseCentral EDI Platform Benefits
Reid appears to be correct in his claim that EaseCentral’s software platform and new EDI capabilities make managing employee benefits simpler.
Health insurance and benefits professionals can pull quotes and compare information from multiple carriers instantly from any desktop or mobile device. Employees are then able to take the decision-making process into their own hands, push the “Start Enrollment” button and set up their group in the enrollment system.
The platform verifies enrollment applications, which helps ensure there are no typographical errors or invalid information, which could cause delays. That guarantees quicker access to healthcare benefits and providers. It also provides post-sale service issues mitigation for benefits brokers, employers and employees.
EaseCentral EDI Platform Designed for Brokers
Insurance brokers are the primary customers for EaseCentral’s solution, most of whom are small businesses themselves.
The company’s scalable pricing model reflects its small business orientation. Subscriptions start at $249 per month, and that allows use with up to 1,000 employees. At $499 per month, up to 5,000 employees can use the platform. For $999 per month, brokers have no limit on the number they can enroll.
Typically, brokers let their clients — HR professionals and benefits administrators — use the platform at no or little cost, seeing it as an added incentive that enables the broker to keep the client on board.
“EaseCentral allows small and mid-size agencies the technical tools to compete with much larger firms, at an affordable price,” said Tim Haley, vice president of broker sales at HealthPartners, a company planning to use the platform, in a press release announcing the launch. ”The ability to shop, quote and enroll from a single source is a great feature for brokers.”
EaseCentral currently has 22,000 companies with more than 400,000 employees on the platform. The average case size is under 20 employees, so it very much aligns with the small business world.
The company is now in 21 states, although the EDI system itself is only in use by Anthem Blue Cross of California at present. It will be partnering with Limelight Health and HealthPartners starting in July. Plans are to expand to other carriers and states over the next few months.