What’s the Benefit? – Episode #3 – EASE to Navigator, Outlining Our Plan with Tammy Healey

Tammy Healey is our Director of Benefit Admin Sales. In April 2024 Employee Navigator plans to release a tool to help us move EASE groups to Navigator. We discuss our plan to communicate this transition with you the agent and generally how we think this will go over the course of 2024 into 2025. In addition, we discuss the good aspects of EASE Navigator plans to retain as the two systems meld into one.

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Welcome back to What’s the Benefit with Dominic Siciliano. This is season one, episode three. Our guest today is Tammy Healy, who is our director of Benefit Admin Sales here at Benefit Profiles. Tammy and I have worked together for a long time. I first met her, she worked for my parents, gosh, a long time ago in the 90s. I worked there as a college–just for getting some extra money. So Tammy was very young. She worked for my mother, Pat, in the sales department, done operations. They were a general agency for SBAM and Blue Cross Blue Shield. When the managing agency opened up, Agent Alliance Corporation, she worked for them there. She was in sales. She did internal operations. She became the director of operations there. And then when that managing agency closed in 2012, she went on to work for Principal, was a manager of account services there, so was agent-facing as well as internal supporting the sales team and working internally at Principal. So Tammy has extensive experience in the insurance business. We were able to bring her back a few years ago when the Ben Admin side of our business became a bigger deal. I was doing it myself as the, you know, the sales guy president of this little GA and we really needed her to take it and she’s taken it from 12, 13 groups to over 150 groups on our Ben Admin Platform– Ease alone and another 20 to 25 on Navigator. But Tammy’s just uniquely positioned because she is a sales-oriented type of person. She loves people. She likes being out and about. She likes seeing agents and their clients, but she’s very process-oriented as well. She’s incredibly organized and she works really, really well with Lena and the team. She’s a huge asset to Benefit Profiles and she’s really smart. And obviously this transition between Navigator and Ease has been a big deal. A lot of people have trepidation about it. A lot of people ask about it. I think agents are using it as a wedge to get Ease clients over to them. It’s like, “Oh, you got to get out of Ease, we use Navigator.” And so in this conversation, what we’re going to try to do is clear up where we are today. Navigator just relEased some more information about what they’re thinking the transition will look like and what you need to be thinking about for your transition. So big milestones we’ll discuss is this next April when they release this transition tool and Tammy will talk about what we’re going to do after that, how we’re going to transition your groups. So I really think this is a very current topic. Obviously it’s fall of 2023. We are very busy, but I think a lot of you have questions. You asked Tammy, I think she gets an email or a call every day about, “Hey, what are we going to do here?” Um, and I hope this clears you up. If it does not, we certainly I’m available. I can’t volunteer Tammy’s free time right now, but I absolutely am available to consult with you face to face or via phone on your groups and kind of just help put your mind at Ease. But we are gearing up to transition these groups. It’s going to go great. We’re going to see it as an opportunity to gain business. And, um, I’m just really excited for my conversation with Tammy. So welcome Tammy. 

Hey Dom. 

Hey there. Okay, so here we are. It’s the fall of 2023. We’ve gone from this Ease shop to now a Navigator shop. Before we get into that, and obviously it’s your busiest time of the year, Tammy, because you’re the director of Ben Admin, as I mentioned earlier. And the podcast, so I appreciate you taking the time to do this. You know, what’s on most of our agents’ minds is this transition from Ease to Employee Navigator. So we have multiple renewals. What is the question that most agents are asking you regarding Ease?

The biggest question right now is should I put a new case on EASE or should I put it on Navigator? And we’re giving them the choice, depending on the agency. I have several agencies that are an EASE shop, so they want to continue using EASE at this point. Um, others that want to give Navigator a try and try, um, a new case on Navigator. So it’s up to what they would prefer, whatever their preferences are at the agency.

Yeah. And there’s goods and bads to both, right? So if you were to- The positive about going to Navigator is you’re going to eventually have all your cases on Navigator, so might as well jump in. But what’s the positive to staying with Ease? 

So during this time frame, you know, it is fourth quarter, our busiest time of the year. Do you want to try out something that you’re not familiar with, um, the unknown, and get to know that during the busiest time? Or do you want to stick with something that you’re familiar with? Um, during your busiest time of the year, I think that’s the biggest drawback at this point. 

Yeah. And I agree with you. And I think there’s some misnomers out there. I think some agents are telling prospect groups, “Oh, you’re on Ease. Ease is going away.” And they almost use it as a wedge. And I think our agents get worried, like, Oh my gosh, we put new business on Ease. If Ease is going away. Can let’s speak to the transition Navigator purchased Ease, obviously, but they have not said to anybody, you got to stop using Ease. Can you talk to that a little bit? 

Right. They actually delivering the same message at Employee Navigator that we are, you know, continue using Ease as you do today, if that’s what you want to do or try new cases on Navigator. So they’re delivering the exact same message that we are. Um, it’s, it’s up to the agent and the agency’s discretion. Yes, Ease is going away, but it’s not going away for almost two years. 

Let’s talk about that further. So what is the plan to sunset Ease? Then this is coming directly from Employee Navigator, right? 

Right. This is Navigators message at this time. They’re going to be supplying us with a transition tool in the spring 2nd quarter of 2024. This transition tool supposedly will help us move cases from Ease to Navigator without having to totally rebuild them. Don’t know what that tool is going to look like as of yet. Um, don’t know what it’s going to entail from our perspective, you know, man hours, uh, etc. And then we can continue to begin to start using it once they, they provide that tool. What they are communicating to us is that they want us to move cases as of their 2025 renewal. So if you have a case that renews in January of 2025 in the fall of 2024, we’d start looking at transitioning that case. If you have one in December of 2025, we would be looking at doing that in the fall of 2025. They have also indicated that as of, you know, January 1, 2026, they’re not going to just turn Ease off. They understand based on the volume that there may be some stragglers, um, that might flow over, um, you know, beyond that requested deadline.

So great deep breath for everyone. You don’t have to freak out and move these cases immediately. We have two years to figure it out. Some folks have told you, “Hey, I want my cases to go as soon as possible.” What’s been the challenge for us to accommodate that request, Tammy?

The challenge there is, is we’re waiting on the tool. We’re waiting on the transition tool from Navigator because what that means is that we don’t have to totally rebuild the case from the ground up is what we’re being informed. We’ll be able to use this tool to pick up what we have in Ease and move it to Navigator. Will there be some pieces that we fill in, have to fill in from Navigator to Ease? I believe so. But again, until we see that tool, we don’t know what that’s going to look like. So if an agent wants a case moved now, the challenge is, is we have to build it all over. So here’s the build workbook. Here’s the census, um, which are different from Ease to Navigator. And here is, you know, you provide us with that information and we’ll rebuild it. So it’s a brand new build. 

And, you know, I think for us, we want to, we’re walking that fine line between being accommodating to our partners, the insurance agents who bring us business, and also managing the volume we have at this time of the year. Correct?

That is correct. Yep. Absolutely. And once I have the discussion with an agent on what this looks like, if we do it now versus, you know, waiting for the transition tool, I think that alleviates their sense of urgency to have to do it now- They realize that there’s more work now than if we wait until the spring of 2024.

And I would just reiterate to the insurance agents if we rebuild that on Navigator, what we’re losing is all that history we have on Ease. If we have some cases that I built, for example, even before Tammy arrived here, we’re talking five, six, seven years of history with these employees that all go away if we rebuild. We don’t know for a fact that the transition tool is going to feature all of that. We’re very hopeful for it. But again, when I talked about my intro, this is a very fluid situation. Once we get this transition tool, we will be able to come out and do stewardship meetings, Tammy and me- Tammy and I, excuse me, former English teacher. Tammy and I, we can come out and say, okay, you have eight to 10 groups. This transition tool is pretty cool. When do you want to communicate, Mr. and Mrs. Agent, to your client? Let’s get you on a calendar, and if we could slide you into a calendar, we can mix that with the rest of the book of business that we have, which, gosh, what is that up to on the EASE side? 160, 170 groups?

Um, right now we have 163 active, but we are also placing more, pending more to be added for this fourth quarter.

Yeah. And that doesn’t even include the cases that are connected to us via the GA portal, which some of you utilize pretty heavily. We’re trying to, like I mentioned earlier, trying to walk that fine line between being accommodating and being a great partner to you and in doing what you would really, really prefer, versus managing all the volume we have this fourth quarter, versus really getting a calendar of events where we can handle all the work, the transition work. So we’re really hopeful that tool is everything that they say it’s going to be right now. Anything more to add to that, Tammy on the transition tool piece?

No, not that I can think of. Um, at this time, the biggest thing is seeing what that tool looks like. Um, you know, trying it out on a couple of test cases that we have, uh, demo cases that we have and seeing what that looks like and then working with those cases that want to move as soon as possible. 

So let’s talk about Ease… You mentioned this earlier, agents who like Ease–So like the almost Obamacare, if you like your plan, you get to keep it–If you like Ease, you get to keep it for a little while. There’s no problem with building new cases on Ease. And if you’re good with it, let’s just do that. The other positive is Hannah, Tammy, and then she’s supported by another person at BPI named Kristy. Hannah and Tammy are faster on Ease than you are on Navigator still. Is that correct? Are you guys get to the point where both are pretty good now? 

Absolutely. Um, we’re still faster on Ease. Ease is a little bit more intuitive than Navigator. They’re working on filtering some of the, the features from Ease over into Navigator. So those are a little bit easier to use also. And plus it’s experience, you know, experience. We’ve built 160 some plus cases on Ease whereas Navigator, I think we have 20 right now. 

Yeah. And you know, when you say we’ve, I will take a little bit of credit cause back in the day I built some too. Which is, I think those are probably the best ones out there, right?

Um, no comment. I’ll plead the fifth.

Or they’re the most complicated or things that need to be cleaned up correctly. Um, okay. So level setting, if you have a big book of Ease business with us. Big deep breath. We’re going to get to the spring of 2024. We’ll look at this tool. We’ll try it out. Then we’ll come to you and say, okay, the tool either works really, really well, hopefully, or it doesn’t work great. And, um, if it doesn’t work great, we’ll go down that road. If it works amazing, then we’ll work with you to get a plan, a calendar, of when we’re going to move your cases over. Because when we move a case over, it’s not just like snapping your fingers, there’s some things that go into that too. First of all, training you, the insurance agent, on a new system. And B, training each and every one of your clients on a new system, right, Tammy?

Right. That’s the, um, that’s the big hurdle in my mind at this point in time, because currently we do one-on-one training with the agent and in their group. Each one is a brand new business. Once they finish that first open enrollment, we do a training specific to them. I think the biggest hurdle that we’re going to face is how do we train 163 company administrators and their agents, possibly. That’s going to be a big hurdle to plan out.

That hurdle, by the way, Tammy, Lena, and I, we know of that hurdle. We see it as, as upcoming. So we’re going to staff up internally here at BPI to give Tammy support. So she has more time in her day to do the training. As well as Hannah, Hannah can do it as well. We have–if worse case scenario–we are an affiliate of The Cason Group. They are the biggest builder and owner, biggest license of Navigator. So we have that backup as well, so we are going to be ready. So we have a plan to give Tammy and Hannah enough time in their day to do that, either through hiring or partnering, but that will be taken care of. Is that your biggest concern–, well, I guess probably the biggest concern is just time, correct?

It is, yep, time to, to do that personalization for each one of our customers and agents and not knowing what that tool looks like yet, you know, once I know what that tool looks like, I think that will help alleviate a lot of the, um, I don’t want to say stress, but the, uh, concern that I have over making this big move on all these groups.

What features are you excited that Ease said they’re going to migrate over? Because they did offer, we’ll put a link out, uh, Navigator updates this Ease transition, the news, and they gave a big long list of features that Ease has, that Navigator doesn’t, that they’re going to they’re going to meld and transition over. So what excites you about some of the transitions?

Well, I think the biggest one that agents ask about are carrier forms, especially in the small group market. A lot of small groups in EASE that we cannot set up integrations on with the carriers are 834 data feeds with the carriers. Agents in the groups are looking for carrier forms so that they can submit those to the carriers for processing.

Uh, if someone is not familiar with EASE, what does that mean, a carrier form? 

Yep. So when we build out a new Ease case, we link a carrier form. So if you have Blue Cross and Delta Dental and Guardian for all your ancillary benefits, we actually link those carrier forms within Ease. And what happens is as the employee completes their enrollment, they’re actually populating and signing carrier forms. And those are stored on the employee’s profile for, you know, their history for future reference, et cetera. And the company admin and the agent can either pull those forms and submitted to the carriers for processing, or they can process online themselves. And it gives you that backup piece of documentation that you might need down the road if something doesn’t get processed correctly. Navigator does not currently have any carrier forms connected to it, so that’s one of the pieces that they’re looking at adding. And I think they realized in the most recent conversations with agents how important that is for the small group market. When you know, you get into a carrier such as Blue Cross Blue Shield that is currently saying, um, right now that the group size for an 834 data feed has to be either 200 or 300, depending on who you’re talking to. So any case below that you have to manually process those member management items. So that form is very important when it comes to those transactions. 

And Navigator… They never got into that space because they were focused more mid to bigger market. Ease really started out as a small market solution and rose up. We have cases, we put 2, 000 person groups on Ease and been no problem, Tammy. 

Correct. 

We’ve also done three person cases on Ease. And same with Navigator. But I, that’s what always attracted–before you even worked for us–that’s what attracted me to Ease because again, with our state, Blue Cross is our dominant carrier and they don’t accept those feeds even party health below 50 doesn’t accept those feeds. So those forms have been pretty important to us as a firm. What else about Ease? Are you excited that they’ll move over? 

Well, I have seen some changes in the 834 EDI data set up changes. Ease, hence its name Ease, we can set up a 834 data feed in Ease very, very quickly, but based on how they have their setup for that, that transaction, Navigator takes a little bit longer. You have to go through each of the loops and find what you’re looking for. They are actually filtering some of the features from Ease for the 834 over to Navigator. So we’ve seen some changes there, makes it a little bit easier. Still got a little bit of ways to go. Other items from Ease, um, the other big one that we run into and almost on a daily basis is a change in, um, agent. An agent of record, and they want to move it from one Ease platform to another Ease platform. We have a process for that. Um, in Ease, there is a feature that allows you to pick it up and move it from Benefit Profiles, Ease platform to an agent that starts out and buys their own, um, Ease. We can pick it up, move it, no disruption whatsoever to the client, no changes or anything occur to that build. They retain everything. Navigator, we do not have that capability at all. If you have a Navigator group on Benefit Profiles platform and you want to move it to your own, it’s a brand new build. You have to start over. You lose the history, et cetera. So that’s another feature that they’re looking at incorporating into Navigator because they, they understand that, you know, agent of records take place and why hold a group hostage, you know, their data hostage and having to start all over and build history again on a brand new build within the platform.

And those three features, the forms, The GA, the ability to move folks from, you know, one platform to another. And then of course, the EDI, those were the three huge highlights. And then of course, there’s a bunch of other ones. There’s kind of the GA connection, GA portal, which is a very minor one for most agents. It’s nice, but if you don’t even know what we’re talking about, it’s not going to affect you. So I would absolutely agree there, Tammy. So I think we’re coming to ultimately, kind of the conversation, you know, I want to touch on three major things, which is what should we do now, which of course, you’re cool to stay on Ease. You’re cool to build on Ease. And then we’re going to let you know, what’s the transition going to look like? We don’t know. The answer to that is we don’t know yet. We do have an idea where the steps that we’re going to take are, let’s see how the transition tool works. If it works really good, we’re going to come out to kind of pass. If it works really good, we’re going to come out and talk to you. If it doesn’t work really good, we’re going to come out and talk to you. And then after, we’re basically, we can say by spring, late spring, early summer of 2024. If you’re a big Ease user with Benefit Profiles, we are going to let you know what our plan is for you and your–  and it’s going to be collaborative. You’re going to tell us how you want to work and we’re going to work it in. We’re going to staff up for that. So Tammy and Hannah have plenty of time to do that kind of work. Uh, obviously Colin, me, myself, other folks at BPI will help in that. Third thing is just paying attention to those features that are going to roll from Ease to Navigator. Anything that you want to tell our audience, Tammy, the agents who work with us, who might be listening to this, even our carriers who are that work with us, who might want to listen in on this transition. 

No, I think the only other thing that I would mention is that, you know, keep in mind that Navigator does have a lot more carrier integrations, data feeds. Um, so some of the our carrier partners that we’ve worked with, you know, since Benefit Profiles started, will have those data feeds also. So there will be, you know, more opportunity to make those connections and, and take those day to day membership management items off an agent’s plate or even the company admin’s plate.

Do you have any examples of that off the top of your head?

Sure, absolutely. Kansas City Life, um, is one of them.

Oh, great one. 

Companion Life is another. And One America, um, that we work with. All the others, Met, Guardian, they also all have connections. 

Yeah. Met, Guardian, Unum, Principal, Gosh, all the big life insurance carriers really are connected were connected to Ease, are connected to Navigator. And Kansas City Life Companion and One America, they were later to the party and Ease also charged them a lot and they kind of made the wise decision now to kind of roll with Navigator, most likely because Navigator is so much more dominant on that Eastern seaboard, uh, Midwest and in Southeast. I think that’s what they just chose to do. Uh, Delta Dental of Michigan, uh, with EASE, they accept feeds either way, correct?

Yes. Yeah. We have an 834 feed set up for both of them. So we can do an 834 with Delta on either EASE or Navigator, either one of them. 

Pretty easy and pretty efficient. 

Yes. And, and to date I’ve never seen a size requirement for them. So unlike priority and blue, well priority you have to have over 50, you cannot be ACA rated. Blue Cross is up in the 200-300s. Um, Delta… I’ve done a group of 10. 

Yeah. They’ve been very easy to work with on that front. 

Yes, they have.

Um, so if you need to get ahold of Tammy, her information is on our website,  benefitprofilesinc.com. You’ll see her link to our email blast, et cetera. Tammy, I want to say, you know, obviously we didn’t talk about our history, but you know, you and I have worked together, gosh, a long, long time. 

Yes. 

I was– as I was putting claims in folders at Sanford and Kalamazoo a million years ago. No one really cares about that, but, um, your unique history in the insurance world is what we didn’t cover, and I want to just mention this kind of you have extensive experience in the Blue Cross space. Obviously, as at the general agent managing agency level, you are a director of our operations at Agent Alliance at a managing agency level. You went to Principal where you were management there, kind of in the agent services side, right? 

Yeah, account services.

We are blessed to bring you back to BPI. That’s when Ben admin, we really, truly, I was like, I need someone to take this off our plate. Cause we had 10 to 12 cases when you came back. And really grew that, that book from where it was to where it is. You have a really interesting skillset because you say–  you are sales oriented and you like being out in the field and you like talking to clients and agents, but you also are very organized. So you’re very much a hybrid role, which makes you– and then it’s certainly your experience, both on the ancillary side with Principal and on the Blue Cross side, which obviously here in Michigan is so important. 

I think what is unique is a lot of times when people are working with me, I have the benefits experience. I’m not just a technology person. And I think sometimes that’s what groups lose with other vendors is they’re working with somebody who only knows the tech piece of it and doesn’t understand benefits and the benefit language. 

And then you work so well with the internal team here at BPI. So for doing new business or renewals or service issues it’s just working incredibly well. Our job, Lena and mine, is just getting you more people so you can have time to do the higher level stuff that you’re going to be needing to do the next two years And our commitment is to do that. So I appreciate very much your partnership. I love that you’re still with us. I know Um, you’ve threatened that crazy R word and we’re not allowing that to happen for a while. The audience, rest assured, she’s promised me she’s going to get us through this transition before that even comes through. 

Definitely.

So, um, any other message of peace for the, for anybody out there?

Nope. I just want to say, I appreciate your confidence in me. Um, I love working for BPI. It’s a great team. Um, and I love working with everybody that I work with out there in the field. 

Yeah, it’s been so great. I really appreciate it, Tammy. Okay, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in. Like I said, we will put those links that we talked about as well as Tammy’s information in the notes  and have a great fall.

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Dominic Siciliano

President, Agent Consultant

Over his 18 years in the benefits business Dominic has worked in the Medicare Advantage, small group Blue Cross medical, ancillary GA and large group benefit admin space here in Michigan. His parents and biggest influences, Patricia Siciliano and John McClain, instilled in him the key pillar to GA benefits business—relationships with agents and carriers. Dominic has served as the NABIP West Michigan President twice. He’s run the golf outing several years going and he served at the Legislative Co Chair for the State Board during the passing of PPACA. His Friday morning classes, Employee Benefits 101, is highly regarded in the industry as a practical, real world introduction to the business for new folks. In short, he is passionate about our business and about seeing agents succeed. 

Dominic loves golf and basketball but as he gets older, golf more. He’s a Western grad but a State fan! He most enjoys spending time with wife Janelle and four children outdoors and Up North! From the very early days of BPI when it was just him and Lena in a tiny little office, he hasn’t changed, it’s about getting the job done for agents.