Confessions of a benefits manager: If it ain’t broke…

Organising the corporate medical plan sees Candid embark on a confusing dialogue with the brokers’ ever-changing personnel

I keep getting calls from Healthcare Helpers, which wants to help me optimise my medical plan. Among many others, I also get calls from Middleman Medical Intermediaries, which notes that my plan is due for renewal and says it can offer me a select service. Everyone in Britain, it seems, knows our plan is due for renewal and wants to help us out with that process. Everyone, that is, except the one firm that really should be calling me at this time – our brokers, the people we have already engaged to do just that.

Mercenary Brokers hasn’t been in touch since it got its commission last year. Actually, that’s not quite true; I have had about seven emails telling me my contact So-and-So has left the company, and from now on I should speak to Thingummy, or AN Other, instead. So, when I want to ring up to sort out my renewal, I can’t remember who to call. By now, the names are a complete blur in my mind. I ask for the last person mentioned. They have moved to another office. Can somebody else help me? I certainly hope so.

Last time we renewed, we did a proper re-broking exercise and changed vendors. Every penny shaved off costs counts around here. And we changed the time before that as well, because the supplier at that time was so difficult to deal with. As a result, our employees are just as confused about where to go to with their medical claims as I am about who to contact at Mercenary Brokers. I think we need a tiny place of stability in our tumultuous lives, so I just want to stay with the same supplier this year. It may not be the best, but for a whole year, it has been quiet. No complaints. No whingeing from staff about call centres. The relative peace is worth every penny to stay where we are.

I finally get to speak to Somebody-or-other at Mercenary Brokers and tell them my plan to renew with the current supplier. Right you are, Somebody-or-other agrees; they will organise a quote.

Days pass and no quote arrives. The renewal date looms ever nearer. I call Somebody-or-other to chase. Sadly, he has left the company to pursue other interests, but What’s-her-name will get right on it. I am beginning to think Mercenary must be treating its staff as badly as it treats its clients.

More days pass and no quote arrives. What’s-her-name is apologetic; three of her colleagues are off sick and she is having to cover for all their accounts too. Is that my problem, I wonder? Finally the quote pings into my inbox from Thingummy. I thought he had left. Isn’t What’s-her-name my contact any more?

A big problem

At least I have a quote now. Only it presents me with a big problem. Contrary to my request, Mercenary Brokers has got quotes from two other vendors, both of which are cheaper than staying with our current supplier. Now I have a dilemma: if I go ahead and renew, I know am costing the company money, which can be a very career-limiting move around here; if I go with the cheapest, I have all the hassle of changing again. Mercenary Brokers has let me down there. If I hadn’t had these other quotes, I could have just carried on and had a nice quiet life. My mistake for contacting them in the first place, I guess. I should have gone straight to the supplier and cut them out, but I felt we had a relationship established.

Now I have to find a way to justify the decision to stay with my current supplier. The experience with one of the vendors we have been to before was so bad, I probably have enough hate mail from staff on file to justify never going back. That just leaves the other one, which isn’t much cheaper. So I ask Mercenary Brokers to see if my current supplier will price-match. Let the broker do something for its money, seeing as it created this problem in the first place.

Eventually, it comes back with the right answer. Phew. Now we just need an invoice and we are away. It isn’t usually the done thing to chase your own invoices, but I have learnt my lesson. Last time a medical supplier was late in sending the invoice, we took the normal month to pay it, and it started holding back claims and got nasty about the contract. Now I demand invoices up front.

The invoice comes, but it is wrong. There are several leavers we had told them about, but they are still on the invoice. Why is nothing ever easy?

What’s-her-name (who has mysteriously reappeared) says we can just deduct the amounts for the leavers and pay the rest of the invoice. Oh no we can’t. I have been there before too. Last time we did that, it put us on hold for underpayment. Accounts receivable departments in medical companies have no mercy. I want a new invoice.

Another invoice comes and it is still wrong. I want to scream. I call What’s-her-name, but she has left the company. Thingummy is apologetic and says he will organise a credit note. I get the credit note, but not from Thingummy, from another new contact. The email goes on to explain Mercenary Brokers has been bought out by Very Large Brokers Inc. So much for a relationship. Do you know what? Next time I am going to Healthcare Helpers.

Next time…Candid meets the new VP.

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