Introducing Patra Select for Benefits- An Interview with Jessica Casteel

March 06 2017

Can you describe the Patra Select Benefits model?

“Patra Select Benefits manages small group accounts that our retail broker clients are struggling to make profitable. We work with our brokers to evaluate their profit margins and agree on a book of business to move to Patra Select Benefits. The broker determines which accounts to transfer by establishing a revenue or number of employees threshold.  We then work with the carriers to move the accounts via book of business transfer under our appointments.

Jessica Casteel, Director of Patra Benefits

"We assign a dedicated onshore account manager who acts as an extension of the broker’s agency. Through co-branding and dedicated phone numbers, the clients feel little to no disruption. The account manager will leverage India to manage all their eligibility, data entry and special projects, which frees them up to focus on the relationship with the client. This enables our retail brokers the ability to focus on larger, more profitable accounts while still receiving guaranteed profit margins on their small accounts.”  

What size groups does Patra Benefits work with?

“Patra Select Benefits defines Small Group as under 100 employees, or lives. However, most of our clients have fewer than 25 employees. In fact, our average employee count is 7.”

What kind of benefits policies do you handle?

“We handle an array of benefits but medical, dental, vision, life, disability, FSA, and COBRA are the most common. We are constantly pursuing innovative ideas to enhance our clients’ employee benefits offerings while keeping their bottom line in mind. Some examples are voluntary life insurance and even pet insurance.”

Does Patra Benefits handle open enrollment?

“Yes – Patra Benefits provides service from start to finish. If a broker brings us a group that doesn’t have employee benefits, we will market all lines of coverage and hone it down to whatever service or benefits they decide to implement. From there, we handle all the implementation paperwork, host online open enrollment meetings, make follow-up calls and provide new hire kits as they bring on new employees.

“Then, every year during renewal, depending on the group size and if it makes sense, we’ll re-market the coverages and work through that process with them, as well.”

Can you tell us about your clients?

“In June of 2016, we launched with a book of business from Heffernan Insurance Brokers. This initial book included all their accounts under 20 lives. In July, we brought on a secondary book of business from Heffernan which included all of their New York clients.

“In September of 2016, we took over a small book of business from Bolton & Co., which included all accounts under 5 lives. We are currently in the process of raising the threshold and onboarding a secondary book of business from Bolton, effective May 1, 2017.

"In addition, we are very excited to begin working with RHSB out of San Antonio, effective May 1, 2017.”

Does Patra Benefits offer anything unique in the benefits space?

“Absolutely! We offer ThinkHR at no cost. Our clients love ThinkHR because it offers online management trainings, an HR call center, HR library, a compensation tool, an employee handbook builder, and that’s just the beginning!

“We also have a partnership with Flock for onboarding, benefits administration and similar services, at the lowest rate possible.

We can create documents that are required by the DOL like WRAP documents and POP plans to ensure a group is compliant. These documents are normally outsourced, but by doing them in-house, we can offer them at a much lower rate. We are finding when working through our compliance checklists with employers that they are unaware of some of these requirements that could cost them thousands of dollars in penalties. We’re happy that we can offer a much more affordable solution.”

What kind of work does our team in India do for Patra Benefits?

"Our India team is fantastic! They handle all of our eligibility and data entry. They also do special projects like creating custom contact sheets for all of our clients or populate Annual Legal Notices. The Annual Legal Notice is particularly important since these notices are required to be distributed to all employees on an annual basis by the Department of Labor, We continue to find ways to lean on our India team and I have no doubt that there will be more to come in the near future. 

"India takes a huge load off of us, which allows us to build relationships with employers. The India staff is crucial in making sure we continue to offer quick and efficient service to our clients.”

How big is the Patra Benefits team, and do you foresee a lot of growth throughout the rest of the year and next year?

“We are a six-person team and I absolutely see us growing as we bring on new brokers. We’re working on formalized training in order to ensure consistency as we grow.

“We’d like to eventually have people working exclusively on specific client needs. For example, we want to have a compliance arm that focuses purely on compliance, COBRA and related issues. Those are long-term goals but at the rate we’re going, it could be sooner!”

How would you describe your team’s structure?

“We work in an “assembly line” fashion. Each agency has 1-2 account managers depending on the size of the book. The account managers handle all renewals and are up-to-date on what’s new with carriers. We also have a dedicated eligibility department that handles all enrollments, terminations, address changes, etc., and a claims department that handles all claims-related issues."