Copyright © 2022. benefitbay™
Benefitbay has launched a groundbreaking SaaS platform to dramatically simplify employee benefits for employers of all sizes. Propelled by a $3M seed round that closed last month, Benefitbay’s technology leverages a new benefit product called ICHRA (pronounced ik-rah), Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement, which allows employers to reimburse employees for individual health plans while maintaining the tax advantages of a group policy. Since ICHRA legislation took effect in 2020, broker and employer adoption has begun. With the new suite of tools available on Benefitbay’s platform, carriers and large brokers predict significant, near-term growth in the sector and have identified Benefitbay as the vanguard for a seismic shift in the employee benefits industry over the next 5 –10 years.
Most notable among Benefitbay’s proprietary technology is a real-time modeling tool – Fulcrum – that accomplishes in minutes what had previously taken weeks on other platforms. Fulcrum allows brokers and their clients to categorize employees into qualified classes like location and employment status, among others, and set a strategic contribution amount for each class. It also allows adjustments for age variation in premiums. Fulcrum allows changes to be made in real-time enabling broker’s and employers to quickly and efficiently strategize, exponentially accelerating the ICHRA planning process. Rigorously tested compliance standards are maintained throughout.
Also of note is Benefitbay’s Advanced Reimbursement Checking (ARC) accounts, which solve a common implementation barrier that had been plaguing ICHRA rollouts: employees having to pay premiums, up-front, entirely out of pocket, and then filing for reimbursement after the fact. This barrier has resulted in decreased enrollment, missed payments and lapses in coverage.
“The modern workforce requires a viable alternative to traditional group coverage,” says Zach Harris, Founder, and CEO of Benefitbay. “Today’s consumer still requires support from their employer and their brokers along with all the tools and tax advantages of a group plan, but now they’re rightfully starting to demand a tailored product specific to their own, highly personal needs. Employers are eager for a solution that enables them to support their employees while also empowering them to make important health decisions for themselves. They no longer want the pressure of trying to select a group plan that works for everyone, everywhere.”
With 25 years of experience in health benefits and technology, Harris has seen change on the horizon for quite some time, but the pandemic brought it into full focus.
“Since the pandemic, remote work has become the rule, rather than the exception. To remain competitive in today’s job market, we need to support a distributed workforce. We’re seeing more transient workers than ever, and employee tenure currently averages two years—a stark contrast from yesterday’s job market. It won’t take long for consumers to demand the same from their health benefits that they demand from the other technologies that enable them—customizable, portable solutions.”
The portability Harris is referencing has to do with the “I” in ICHRA. Although it is the Employee-Benefit brokers who are Benefitbay’s customers, ultimately, Benefitbay is a tool that enables individual employees to shop for and enroll in an individual plan that they own. With personal ownership comes the ability to carry health benefits from job to job, city to city.
“When discussing key features with employees, we like to say, change jobs, not doctors,” adds Harris.
This positions Benefitbay as a likely solution in sectors known for transient and distributed teams, like big tech, but it should also become a sought-after solution for the gig economy industry, seasonal employers, and employers with a large volume of hourly employees. With Benefitbay also comes significantly reduced plan management responsibilities, with the lion’s share of administrative tasks automated on the platform. Dreaded annual renewals will become a thing of the past, replaced by a simple budget conversation between employer and broker.
“We know we’ll see the early adopters in sectors where it’s too logical to ignore,” says Harris. “And that will be our proving ground. Before long, we believe this will become an expected health benefit for any employer who wants to remain competitive in today’s job market”.
While Benefitbay’s offering could be a great solution for employers of all sizes, it’s the small business sector where it has the potential to make the biggest impact. This is thanks to another proprietary tool called Subsidy Advantage, which provides small businesses with visibility into the government subsidy dollars available to their employees. When employees enroll using this tool, they can compare available government dollars side-by-side with their employer’s contribution (the dollar amount an employer is able to pay toward an employee’s premium) and choose whose dollars they will take advantage of based on their individual circumstances. Often, the subsidized amount is greater than the available employer contribution. With a compliant, well-designed contribution strategy on Benefitbay, both employer and employee can achieve savings by accessing these large subsidies. This innovative tool also helps identify what is known as the “family glitch,” whereby, if an employer offers the employee an affordable contribution, it nullifies the ability of that employee’s family to take advantage of otherwise available government subsidies.
“We’ve seen small business owners and employees paying up to 60% less than they were paying with their group plan,” Harris continues. “Offering potentially game-changing savings for many small business owners with no degradation in the benefits provided to their team. On or Off Exchange, employees will have the same access to Benefitbay’s support structure. We’re proud to be putting government dollars to work for small business owners and their employees. We think this could make a big difference.”
Benefitbay is a broker-enabled tool. Employers can’t get on board without going through their broker, and it’s the benefit broker who may feel the biggest change.
“We’ve reaffirmed our broker partners as advisors to their clients and trusted consultants,” Harris adds. “We’re not asking them to go out and force ICHRA on a client. We’re simply asking them to take the quick and easy step of modeling a plan to see if Benefitbay is a good fit.”
From a broker’s perspective, most interesting of all, perhaps, is that they’ll begin to establish client relationships on the employee level that go beyond their employment. With the employee as a client of their agency, a revenue stream that will survive employment at a given job will emerge. This aspect in the shadow of record layoffs during the pandemic shines a light on how valuable Benefitbay can be, not only to the broker but to the employees, as well. Benefitbay allows brokers to capitalize on ICHRA as an opportunity rather than view it as a threat. A stark contrast when compared to other solutions that have chosen to bypass the broker network by selling directly to employers. Benefitbay, meanwhile, proposes that brokers will maintain or increase revenue.
Harris has assembled a best-in-class team of engineers and operators, as well as a distinguished board of directors, to help guide their rapid growth, and the Benefitbay team is not alone in its optimism. Investors, VCs, and corporate partners were eager for a position in Benefitbay’s seed round. Still, Harris kept a tight lid on it at $3M with the promise of a Series A expected in 2022 to further support the accelerated growth. Harris also teased some exciting partnerships that will be announced as those deals become final.
“We’re currently ramping up our team and actively navigating our first enrollment season. So far, we’re exceeding projections by nearly every metric, with some exciting announcements coming soon. We know our momentum will only build as our product and the market demand evolves in the months and years ahead.”
Copyright © 2022. benefitbay™