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Willis develops app for real-time voluntary benefit selection

Part one of a two-part article: Willis uses PeopleSoft 9.1 to create real-time automated insurance selection for voluntary benefits.

It wasn't that long ago that the insurance broker came to the house and spread out a portfolio of plans for the heads of household to choose from. Today, most of us handle our insurance plans online or via mobile applications. For its voluntary benefits, insurance firm Willis decided to bring back some of the immediacy and personalization of the house call, while still staying completely automated.

Willis is the world's oldest insurance firm, founded in London in 1828. It brokered the insurance for the Titanic, the Hindenburg, the Lunar Rover and the World Trade Center. It now offers a broad range of professional insurance, including health and accident insurance, loss management and weather risk. It has global distribution capabilities with headquarters in London and head U.S. office in New York City.

Willis runs PeopleSoft 9.1, which manages global payroll, domestic payroll and human resources. A couple years ago, Willis decided to start offering voluntary benefits to its employees. Voluntary benefits are insurance products that employees choose to purchase through their companies at a better rate than they could get on their own. Voluntary benefits are not subsidized by the company. However, Willis did not have a pre-existing way to manage voluntary benefits and benefit selection. It used PeopleSoft 9.1 to handle benefits along with PeopleSoft Benefits Administration (BenAdmin), which outsources and handles the time-intensive duties of benefits administration.

Willis had three criteria for what it wanted in a benefit plan, according to Managing Director Tim Stofka. It wanted the plan to be part of its PeopleSoft implementation and have the same user experience. It also needed to display the deduction rate and show the cost as part of the total benefits.

Willis also needed a plan that used events and eligibility rules. So it decided to create one. Benefits X-Change is an application that resides in PeopleSoft and allows employees to purchase voluntary benefits in real time. Instead of trying to hold all of the insurance information for every plan, Benefits X-Change opens up a real-time conversation with the insurance carrier's enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and passes secure information back and forth. The carrier already knows what products are available to the employee and has them in a case on the carrier's site. PeopleSoft already has all of the personal information that the carrier needs to identify the person and to fill out the paperwork. With them in conversation, PeopleSoft only needs to hold onto the HR information. The insurance carrier's ERP contains all of the plan data and the rate card information.

Insurance cost is calculated according to a rate card, which cross-references age and the amount paid. However, the rate of pay cannot change from what it was when someone first started the insurance policy. Consequently, when someone wants to increase the amount of their insurance policy after time has passed, the math gets tricky.

The dialogue between Benefits X-Change and the insurance carrier's ERP happens via PeopleSoft Integration Broker. The steps are simple and straightforward. Each aspect of the back-and-forth happens via XML. The user experience looks the same throughout. Most importantly, everything happens in real-time. It begins with the employee going to the benefits website, and follows with these steps:

  1. The handshake -- Benefits X-Change sends employee information to the carrier.
  2. The carrier sends back buying options for the employee.
  3. The employee asks for more information on the plans.
  4. The carrier sends the rate and relevant marketing information.
  5. The employee makes a selection.
  6. The carrier sends the state-required forms already filled out with the HR data from PeopleSoft.
  7. The employee signs and sends the forms back to the carrier.
  8. The carrier looks at the underwriting and decides whether or not to approve.
  9. The update is synched in BenAdmin. The carrier and the employee's HR team both have the policy on record.

"At the end of the transaction, I want the carrier to have it [the insurance policy] and PeopleSoft to have it and I don't want to wait," Stofka explained. Because of the real-time aspect, not only do the carrier and HR both have the new policy immediately, but everything is edited in real time as well, so any problems with the paperwork are immediately caught and sent back to the employee. This is important because, Stofka explained, statistically speaking, "once you leave this transaction, you'll never come back."

Next: Providing the personal touch

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