When purchasing group life insurance, it’s tempting to think of it as a commodity. After all, life insurance coverage from one carrier to the next carrier can look similar–on the surface anyway. But peel back the layers and it’s a different story. When it comes to service, group life insurance is anything but a commodity.

It’s a brand new world out there and having robust online services is a baseline for the delivery of group life insurance. Many group insurance carriers boast user-friendly systems, but that doesn’t mean all group employer websites are the same. Employer websites have a wide range of capabilities when it comes to membership and billing, claims status and submission, downloadable forms and guides, and privacy standards. Consider these points when sizing up your carrier’s online offerings.

Membership and billing

An employer site should allow you to add and delete members on your plan. Ideally, employees can be searched by last name, and member information can be easily viewed or updated. Online billing should make your statements available for viewing when ready; some carriers will even alert you with an e-mail when new bills are posted. Statements are archived and can be accessed at a later date if needed.

The best sites offer customers an administrative reporting system. This allows you to analyze member benefits at a glance, track pending coverage changes, or even generate one-page coverage summaries for each employee. Reports can be exported and uploaded to your HRIS or internal billing system for reference.

Medical underwriting

On some websites, the Evidence of Insurability (EOI) application consists of a fillable form that needs to be printed and mailed to the carrier. With a true online EOI system, clicking “submit” should route the completed application to the carrier’s database for review. Some carriers even use auto-approval technology, approving applications in minutes and automatically emailing the employee with an approval date and the amount of insurance. This shaves days off the application process if the service is truly online. Note also that this eliminates instances of the employer inadvertently viewing an employee’s confidential health information, as often happens when paper transfers hands before reaching the carrier.

Claim status

Make sure to choose a carrier that provides not only EOI application status, but disability claim status as well. What does disability claim status have to do with life insurance? It makes life waiver administration easy. With the ability to check disability status online, an employer can easily see who is eligible for a life waiver. Often life waiver administration is overlooked by employers, creating the potential for financial liability and employee relations issues down the line.

eDocuments

Employers should have easy access to downloadable forms and guides. Downloadable forms would include claims and EOI applications, beneficiary designations and enrollment forms. An administrator guide should include tips and FAQs on how to best manage your benefits with the site. Policy and employee booklets are available to be emailed to employees or posted to a company’s intranet site. Many employer sites also will post supplemental educational material and legislative news and information for your reference.

Privacy

Everyone knows the importance of guarding employee information. It’s critical that your carrier’s employer website be password-protected and that it utilizes Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol to ensure the privacy of transmitted data. Sessions should “time out” after a period of inactivity. The “back” button should be disabled on the site, making it impossible for another user on the same computer to view confidential data. The carrier’s servers should be secure from hacking, and the carrier should perform regular data security audits. Some sites enable the account administrator, usually the Benefits Administrator, to create restricted access logons for other authorized personnel. This provides a company with the ability to grant access to different people in the company and restrict what they can view. For example, employers often want to give a person access to only one geographic location.

When shopping for carriers who have online capabilities, be sure their services are truly online. Can forms be completed and submitted online? How is private member information protected while it’s online? Is member information on hand when you need it?

Leading carriers understand that plan sponsor websites do not replace personal relationships; employers need not be concerned that using web-based applications means they will never hear from their customer service representatives, or that their requests are going into some internet “black hole.” Member websites, when they are designed correctly, facilitate the carrier-employer relationship and offer a great way to get both employees and employers the information they need, when they want it.

Carrier service is a critical component of group insurance coverage. Websites can greatly enhance that service experience–if they are properly designed. It’s time to bust the myth that life insurance is a commodity and take a close look at what carriers really provide for online service.