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Education Co-op Grows with Technology

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Illinois-based Educational Benefit Cooperative (EBC) saves 70,000+ hours each year.

Company Profile
  • Education cooperative serving K-12 schools in Illinois
  • Businessolver client since 2011
  • Steady growth:
    • 2011: 76 districts with fewer than 19,000 members
    • 2021: 120 districts with 37,000+ members

Challenge

Prior to working with Businessolver, the Educational Benefit Cooperative (EBC) relied on paper and manual enrollment processes. This meant that HR staff in each district had to manually enter all employee information into multiple systems, resulting in inefficiencies and increased risk due to human errors. In addition, their manual billing and payment processes were inconsistent and confusing. As for online or mobile-enabled employee self-service, that wasn’t even an option for most districts.

“It was quite a nightmare,” said Willow Springs School District 108 Superintendent Frank C. Patrick. “Nothing is more tedious than putting the same information into multiple databases. We’re a single district with only about 50 employees, but I estimate the administrative burden was costing us around 120 hours in staff time per year.”

Even EBC’s accounting firm, Baker Tilly, felt the impact of these inefficiencies. “Before Businessolver, I would receive invoices and coordinate payment with each of our school districts through email and spreadsheets,” said Senior Accountant Carol Rosborg.

Solutions

The Early Days—Achieving Stability

According to Businessolver AVP of Customer Solutions Janeen Tigges, stabilization is often the first thing pooled groups need. “Especially as co-ops grow, predictability is the name of the game. The transition from paper-based forms to an electronic enrollment and billing platform was the first step in building that stability, not only for EBC but for their clients as well—a big and important first step.”

Fortunately for EBC, they had a cheerleader to champion this big change—Gallagher Senior Benefits Consultant Nancy Bellosa. “Because she had worked with the Benefitsolver platform in a different role, Nancy was already two or three steps ahead of EBC. And, she leveraged that experience to ensure they achieved the stabilization they were looking for,” Tigges said.

“Many school districts weren’t reporting their bills properly,” Bellosa recalled. “But once they started working with Businessolver, the billing became streamlined and EBC immediately started seeing appropriate and consistent billing information.”

Because the Benefitsolver platform automatically adjusts invoices with debits and credits based off changes to elections made on the employee record and reconciles them appropriately to the specific vendor’s billing rules and retro windows, EBC saved hundreds of administrative hours across the cooperative in their first year.

And that was something that made accountant Carol Rosborg’s life a lot easier. Recalling the days of seemingly endless emails and spreadsheets, Rosborg said, “Now, a lot of that work is done for me through automated billing and reporting within the system. That’s cut down on my email correspondence by at least 90%. Even now that we have 120 districts, there are some I don’t contact directly because payment posting and invoicing is handled through the platform.”

Superintendent Patrick also appreciates the stability Businessolver brought in working with carriers. “Before working with Businessolver, each district would send in what they ‘thought’ they owed to Blue Cross Blue Shield, for example, based on whoever they were counting that month, and somehow throughout the course of the year, it might balance out correctly,” Patrick recalled with a laugh. “Now, my gosh, it’s much more streamlined and far more accurate.”

Results

Leveraging Technology for Growth

Providing their clients’ employees with the right benefits in the right place and at the right time is an important part of EBC’s growth strategy—something Patrick knows well, as he also serves on the EBC Executive Board of Directors. “With a severe teacher shortage in the United States and salaries not always commensurate with the work educators do, benefits become a very valuable part of the package, and that’s an important selling point for us.” Patrick said.

With the Benefitsolver platform quietly humming along in the background, Patrick says his monthly board meetings can now focus more on discussing plan designs, cost containment and other benefits-related strategies. “Before Businessolver, when people were estimating their bill every month, we spent valuable time talking about these kinds of problems—those that required a global solution. But not now. And that’s a big benefit for us. I mean, who wants to be resolving billing issues all the time?”

“The billing features of the Benefitsolver platform is what initially attracted EBC to Businessolver, but I knew it could do so much more,” Bellosa said. “When I first started working with EBC, for example, only about 10 school districts were using Benefitsolver’s employee self-service features. So, I knew there was a great opportunity here.” Thanks to the employee-centric design of the platform—not to mention Bellosa’s fervent advocacy—more than 50 school districts now take advantage of self-service tools like the MyChoice® Mobile App and Action ManagerSM.

“Whenever I get a new district, I tell them to turn on self-service,” Bellosa said enthusiastically. “It’s almost like having another member on your staff who works for free because employees don’t have to call you or fax you a form to manage their benefits. And if someone is out on maternity leave, for example, and they want to make changes to their benefits using their phone while holding their new baby, they can do all that!”

Patrick agreed that the platform has now become so much more than a billing solution. “Let’s talk about ACA reporting, for example. What you’ve done at Businessolver to package and streamline the data has been miraculous! When I talk to people who don’t use Businessolver and who are putting those reports together on their own, they’re pulling their hair out.” Then he added with another chuckle, “But, we’re just mildly annoyed.

 

By the Numbers
  • 70,300 hours saved each year* *Based on Superintendent Patrick’s estimate of 2.4 hours per member per year previously spent minus the estimated 30 minutes required now.
  • 415 ACA file transmittals sent since 2016
  • 6,000+ automated member messages sent through Action Manager each year

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