Total Benefit Systems
Most Michigan denizens can agree that the most beautiful of our state’s four seasons is fall. Summer humidity fades into glorious golden days where the landscape bursts with a gorgeous color palette. But just as this season beckons the oncoming of the biggest holidays of the year, it also is the precursor of not only the dreaded winter months but in the business world, the equally dreaded insurance renewal time!
Although the casual reader probably did not see that assertion coming, business leaders and entrepreneurs alike see this as a complex but imperative part of their day-to-day operations. And with the recently enacted Affordable Care Act (ACA), compliance is suggesting employers become more aware of its requirements. We are very fortunate to have one of the foremost leading authorities in health care reform right in our own back yard.
Locally based Total Benefit Systems is in their 25th year as the leading authority in the group benefits market. Their agents are licensed and stay current with continuous certifications and seminars to ensure they are up-to-date on all of the newest information, laws, regulations, and techniques in the insurance and benefits field. More importantly, the company is led by founder and president Harvey L. Lee and his list of prestigious credentials. He is our area’s only Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist with additional accreditations as a Registered Health Underwriter (RHU), Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC) and Certified Long Term Care (CLTC). And the fact that Lee was born and raised in Genesee County certainly fills in all the checks for a company to do prospective business.
Lee embarked on a business career by earning associate and bachelor degrees from Mott Community College and Michigan State University respectively. He recalls always being familiar with the insurance business as his father owned and locally operated Lee’s Insurance company. After a two-year sales stint with the Black and Decker Company along with the pivotal passing of the State of Michigan’s Public Act (PA) 350 in 1987, he saw an opportunity. Since the PA granted financial compensation for the selling of Blue Cross insurance and because of his family ties, he came back to the Flint area, earned his insurance license and went to work in his father’s business.
Even though Lee’s Insurance company focused on casualty insurance, Harvey started focusing on health insurance and benefits exclusively. “I realized the benefits market was going to become increasingly important and continue to grow,” he says. He adds, “My interest in benefits allowed me to work closely with the business owners, and since health insurance was starting to change considerably, I saw an opportunity to move on from casualty.”
As the Lee Insurance company was sold in the late ʼ90s, Harvey decided to start his own firm, armed with his expertise. He wanted the title of his new company to reflect a personal and specifically defined business goal: To be flexible when designing clients’ insurance plans by always doing what is right for each and every customer. “I also wanted people to realize we can do everything for them– employee benefits, group life insurance, disability and pension plans,” he says. Hence: Total Benefit Systems.
Total Benefit Systems first “set-up shop” in the Rochelle Center, an office complex on Linden Road, but after outgrowing this space, Harvey moved the business to an office on Austin Parkway. In the early 2000s, he became aware of a relatively new office setting known as “business condos” promoted by Mansour Development. Total Benefit Systems soon became one of the first tenants at 5151 Gateway Centre, Suite 200, where they still flourish.
Lee readily admits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation is the most significant change in the insurance industry. Even though the law was passed in 2010, penalties have become more common since 2014 and are continuing to be more rigorous. Adding to the fact that the casualty insurance companies did not fully embrace the ACA initially, Total Benefit Systems has emerged as the “go-to” place for answers and solutions. “I always believed chaos creates opportunity,” Harvey says, “and the ACA stipulations can be overwhelming, but I wanted to be as proficient as I possibly could. Even though ACA certification is not mandatory, I decided to embrace the opportunity and took many hours of training to completely understand the complexities. Our staff too has embraced it as well with many hours and seminars of training.”
Lee explains that many employers are frustrated because they are becoming aware they cannot hire any employee without offering insurance related to the ACA guidelines. “There are many layers to implementation and the penalties,” he points out. “Understanding who will be penalized, who will not be penalized and just what are the penalties can be perplexing. People really need help to get through all of this.”
He goes on to note all businesses must have a “Summary Plan Description” which documents the insurance plan coverage for each employee. Lee mentions individual plans are more attractive now but raise even more confounded questions. “80 percent of people are eligible for subsidies but do not know how to get this support,” he states. Compounding the matter, all employers with more than 50 full-time employees must offer insurance coverage prior to hiring – but, if the prospective employee accepts, that person will not be eligible for any subsidy.
Further, the penalties for not having any coverage are increasing. Lee cites that in 2015, eight million people received fines for not having coverage. “People simply do not realize what is involved with ACA requirements but that’s where we come in,” he says. It is important to note that, with certain special circumstances absent, individuals have a strict coverage enrollment period from November 1st through January 31st. If neglected during this timeframe, however, coverage cannot be secured until the following year’s enrollment period and thus a penalty will result. “It is not widely known that carriers are forbidden to sell this type of insurance outside of the defined enrollment period,” Harvey adds. As a side note, the Medicare enrollment period is from October 15th through December 7th.
When exploring options for securing any insurance coverage, it is a plus to know the company is locally based and is involved in their community. Harvey Lee is currently serving on the board of directors for the Crim Fitness Foundation along with serving in the same capacity and as past president with the Greater Flint YMCA.
“It was on my personal life bucket list,” he says with genuine humility. “I wanted to get involved in my community so I can be a good community service leader to my family and my children. It has been a great positive experience in my life. I honestly get as much out this service as I put in.” Along with Harvey L. Lee’s dynamic leadership and the strong relationships among the insurance companies they represent, this company’s system is totally beneficial!
For more info, contact
Total Benefit Systems at:
1-866-438-8271 or 810-239-0200
Visit their website: www.totalbenefitsystems.com