How to Get The Most Out of Being in an Employer Cooperative
Have you ever wondered how you can become more engaged in The Alliance and retain information that helps your HR department? Kevin Lamp has advice for you.
Lamp is the CFO of The Fall River Group, Fall River, Wis. The Fall River Group has been a member of The Alliance for more than 14 years, employing 130+ workers and covering over 340 individuals with health benefits.
Since joining The Alliance, the Fall River Group has been one of The Alliance’s most engaged employers. They attend nearly all of The Alliance events, participate in focus groups, offer QualityPath, and continually offer advice and suggestions on how to improve our employer cooperative.
We asked Lamp questions about their engagement in The Alliance and what advice he had to offer for other employers looking to get the most out of their membership.
The Fall River Group has been a member of The Alliance since 2004. Were you involved in the transition to The Alliance network? If so, what were the deciding factors on moving your employees to a self-funded plan with The Alliance?
Lamp: Yes, I was involved in the transition to The Alliance with other team members. What helped us decide to move to The Alliance platform was that we wanted what most employers want: better control of our expenses. We wanted to find a partner to meet the flexibility of our needs (i.e. plan design and large network in a rural community.)
We thought it would be more of a challenge to get 100 percent of our employees covered in-network so we did a survey amongst all staff. The results showed us that there wouldn’t be any disruption from where our employees already go to the doctor.
We also gathered great feedback from agents/brokers and members of The Alliance both new and old as we were doing interviews as part of our due diligence to ensure The Alliance was a good option. All of our interviews came out with 100 percent positive experiences and comments.
Lastly, we wanted to take advantage of The Alliance’s contractual efforts and discounts. There were other networks that were suggested and The Alliance came out favored.
You are one of our most engaged employers. What do you think your company gains from that engagement?
Lamp: We gain the sharing of knowledge from attending The Alliance Events, talking with dedicated The Alliance staff, and continually staying connected with other employers. I am always in the circle of like-minded professionals; I learn from others, take action and apply programs to benefit my employees.
By staying engaged I learn new things and take action as a manager which is very important both for my personal and professional development.
Why do you attend our events and other learning opportunities? Can you give me an example of something you learned that made a difference to The Fall River Group and/or your employees?
Lamp: I attend the events to expand my knowledge and to attain new ideas to see what other employers are doing. That provides a platform of making good choices.
The most recent thing I learned was a tip from Dominic Lorusso, speaker at The Alliance Annual Meeting who provided us with five tips to offer our employees when visiting the doctor. It was a great idea and he provided us with a tangible item to take back to the office.
Can you recommend any best practices that help your employees understand their health benefits?
Lamp: The best practice that we have is the constant awareness of health care choices that is out there for our employees to make. We continuously provide them with materials and the best way to do that is to ask employees what they want such as “do you have family history conditions,” “how do they want the information brought to them,” etc.
We have a large group of blue collar workers, so being consistent and constant in communicating to our employees is important. We always make them aware of their options and ensure that they understand their health benefits.
I hold a group meeting every spring and hand out packets of information. My office door is always open and I do get calls throughout the year with employee questions. I really enjoy when I am able to help my employees and I will do whatever it takes to help them understand. To me that is the most “rewarding” part of my job.
What tactics do you use to communicate with your employees about health benefits?
Lamp: Constant sharing. Our employee bulletin board is the gateway to getting communications out to our workers which is located in the hallway leading up to the lunchroom. A lot of employees pay attention to what is on the board. Important information is always posted there, including, posters, articles and announcements. At a minimum we put information in a memo or if more lengthy in a poster. Since we have a lot of workers on the plant floor they do not have access to email so we include information in their paychecks (payroll stuffers) or offer one-on-one meetings. We also have recently started mailing letters to the employee homes which has been successful.
We do have a handful of employees who also work in offices, with those individuals we choose to communicate through email.
Can you recommend any Alliance resources for communicating with employees?
Lamp: The Alliance has a very comprehensive and thorough website with resources that are all hyperlinked with nice, easy-to-read headers.
We utilize the toolkits of materials primarily based on the following topics:
- Understanding the cost and quality of health care
- Employee safety
- How to be a Better Health Care Consumer
The formatted pieces are very useful as I can just print and post rather than creating things from scratch.
We also use a lot of the information and handouts that are provided at the Alliance Learning Circle events and provide those handouts in employee packets.
What do you tell employees about The Alliance? How do you share this information?
Lamp: We tell our employees that they should not just think of The Alliance as a provider network, they are a true partner and a resource to think about cost and quality of providers.
We verbally communicate this during all-staff benefit meetings. We emphasis that we are a partner with The Alliance who provides us with a network of quality doctors, hospitals and clinics and always suggest them to use providers in The Alliance network first.
We also point out that The Alliance is not an insurance company, we (The Fall River Group) is the insurance company. The Alliance is our network, and our TPA (UMR) is the company that administers your medical claims. I make sure to start off every meeting with that information so the employees understand.
If another employer were to ask you why you self-fund with The Alliance, what would you say? What are the benefits of being part of The Alliance?
Lamp: I can’t say it enough but the wide network of providers that serve our demographics is one of the biggest benefits of self-funding through The Alliance. Also, The Alliance has proven to be a true partner with the same goals of our organization.
We also like to let people know that when you engage with The Alliance, there is a genuine effort whether it be with the staff or their outside resources. They work to achieve our goals together as well as our long term benefits. We trust The Alliance.
I always share that with other employers, and jokingly say “I am not kidding you.”
What would you like to add?
Lamp: I just would like to reiterate the genuine care that The Alliance takes in maintaining their relationships with members which is highly visible at events.
The format that The Alliance presents is always a meaningful interaction. I can’t take one thing away from attending the events, there are always multiple things.
They help me as an employer provide my employees with resources. More employees are thirsty for more engagement but they don’t know how to do it on their own. That is where The Alliance steps in and helps.