Discover the latest developments and milestones in the ongoing integration journey between Employee Navigator and Ease. The article below delves into key updates, training opportunities and the roadmap ahead.
You can read Employee Navigator’s full article here:
"We received positive feedback from our first blog post and will continue to provide clear and consistent details on the integration of Employee Navigator and Ease. I recognize that individuals reading this update may have their own interpretation, so feel free to reach out to us if you have additional questions or comments. To ensure you receive future updates, please make sure to sign up for Employee Navigator’s blog, which can be done at the top of the blog page.
Two issues that our staff heard during customer calls involve concerns that Employee Navigator might exploit its leadership position to dramatically raise fees and that we intend to swiftly discontinue Ease, forcing brokers to transition to Employee Navigator before incorporating Ease’s key features into our platform. First, we have successfully negotiated a reduction in Ease’ revenue from a top ten ancillary carrier, and this is just the beginning, with many more negotiations in progress. We also previously communicated that Ease broker license fees will not increase in 2024. Scanning the horizon, we foresee Ease’s paid HR fees decreasing and do not anticipate Ease broker licensing fees changing in 2025 (except for some national agencies and there are a few grandfathered license agreements which are quite outdated). Regarding the Ease platform, we will not require customers to migrate until they are ready. Our goal is to have all customers migrated by 12-1-2025.
Ease brokers have told us Ease is easier to use, and I agree. As an example, it took me a few minutes to find our own company’s open enrollment status and we have noticed many of our broker functions are either intermixed with HR functions or require multiple clicks to access. Frankly, I am a bit embarrassed that we overlooked so many simple changes which would make navigator easier for brokers. These easy fixes are being itemized and we will begin making these simple updates. The primary pillars of our integration are:
- Make Employee Navigator’s user interface “Easy”
- Add Ease features to Employee Navigator
- Have a great migration tool
Employee Navigator system training for Ease brokers will resume in January and it will include an in-person opportunity in California. Note, current Employee Navigator users can also attend these training sessions. Our tentative schedule is:
- January: Virtual
- February: Virtual & In-person: Frederick, MD
- March: Virtual & In-person: Los Angeles/Long Beach area
- New companies are being added to Employee Navigator and Ease at a brisk pace. Over the last three months, 11,300 new groups with 855,000 employees have been added.
- The week after Thanksgiving is historically our busiest week of the year, and this year was no exception. The average answer time for Employee Navigator was 23 seconds and 66 seconds for Ease.
- In November we created a Customer Success Team made up of staff from both Ease and Employee Navigator. One of the first projects the team is working on is talking directly with several hundred Ease brokers to answer questions they have and document concerns or issues which need to be incorporated into our integration plans.
- Our Finance Team has analyzed the customer billing process at Ease and has identified a small number of customized partner and broker agreements that require a significant amount of manual work each month to generate. We will be reaching out in early 2024 to simplify these agreements without impacting the total fees paid.
- Employee retention is a key priority for the business. There has been a substantial improvement in Ease’s year-over-year employee turnover. In the latest quarter from July to September, Ease experienced a notable reduction in employee turnover, dropping from 27 in 2022 to 12 for the same period in 2023. Additionally, we welcomed our first boomerang employee who, after leaving Ease, expressed a desire to return.
- Employee Navigator continues to add new integrations for brokers and their customers. In the last five months, twenty-two new integrations have been added to Employee Navigator including Prudential, SyncHR and LegalEase. A complete list of integrated partners can be viewed on our Marketplace.
Our integration planning is focusing on six areas with the primary focus of adding key Ease features into Employee Navigator so brokers can migrate customers without sacrificing the features they love. Please note, development work is ongoing and being done simultaneously.
1. Feature parity
- Company settings, insurance plans, employee fields, broker reporting, payroll, etc.
- GA & Enroller: Enhance existing EN features to better support builds or ongoing operations.
- Porting Ease’s Carrier Enrollment forms.
- Improve EN’s existing API to better support GAs and agency management systems.
3. Day 1 functionality needed when a customer has migrated
- Day 1: Enrollment and broker operations
- Easier navigation
5. Complete work for key customers
6. Employee Navigator operational needs
Upcoming Ease Platform Updates
One of our key areas of focus for the Ease Platform is to improve data quality for companies that request integrations with carriers. A few upcoming enhancements to Ease are:
- Basic validation of data entered in Ease, not the requirement of the data. For example, when the following data is entered into Ease, the system will make sure it is formatted correctly: Company: Tax ID; Employee: SS#, Date of Birth, Date of Hire, Salary.
- Audit reports: Provide reports for brokers which show critical data missing for integrated plans such as addresses, DOBs, salaries for employees enrolled in life plans which are a multiple of income, etc. This will help brokers get ahead of carrier errors vs. being reactive.
- Updating tasks and error reports to make them easier to use and identify missing data.
- Pre-integration checks for EC+ cases to improve data quality:
- ID missing fields required by carriers
- Plan and employee check (e.g., do all employees enrolled have a date of birth)
Think about the work we are doing to combine Ease and Employee Navigator as a kitchen remodel. First, we need to complete all the infrastructure updates before the countertops, tiles and paint are added. Before the migration tool can be completed, we first have to add Ease features to Employee Navigator. The migration tool will evolve over time, but the first version, expected to be released in April 2024, will support most customers. Version 1 will move a company, the most commonly built plans, company and plan documents and integrations for payroll, COBRA, FSA and Ease’s EC and EC+ integrations. Successive updates to the migration tool will expand to include lesser used plan designs. For example, the hearing plan used by about 60 out of 80,000 companies (or .07% of companies on Ease) may be released 1-2 months after the initial release.
- Ease migration dashboard: There will be a migration dashboard listing the migration status of all companies in Ease, and a broker will be able to kick off the migration from the dashboard. The dashboard will also include a data audit tool. For example, a check will be performed to ensure all employees enrolled in a plan that is integrated with a carrier have a SS#. The data audit functions will be available in Ease well in advance of the release of the migration tool to ensure you have time to correct any data gaps.
- Access to historical information: Current plans, employees and enrollments will be moved from Ease to Employee Navigator via the migration tool. All ended plans and enrollment details will remain available in Ease and/or accessible through Employee Navigator (method TBD). We do not have plans to turn off the Ease Platform or servers at this time. Our goal is to ensure you have the data you need to easily administer your customers. Note, we have not determined how terminated employees will be managed. For instance, the methodology of accessibility of employees terminated five years ago in Ease is still under consideration. However, related SS#s will be removed to mitigate cyber security risks.
- Carrier Enrollment Forms: Historical enrollment forms in Ease for current employees will be available in Employee Navigator’s interface.
- Carrier integrations: Insurance carriers move customers between Ease and Employee Navigator every day. Employee Navigator has begun collaborating with carriers to ensure they can manage the higher volume of cases expected in 2024. Our integrated carriers will have access to a real-time queue of companies who have migrated to Employee Navigator, thus allowing them to create an internal workflow to efficiently make any necessary change on their side. The current plan includes transferring any carrier codes as part of the migration.
- Payroll migration: This is a bit easier than migrating insurance plans, and we have begun working with payroll partners on their migration support requirements.
- Potential migration issues: We are assembling a list of special circumstances that will require customization of the migration tool. While these are not frequent, our team is analyzing the customers in Ease to identify situations which will need special attention. For example:
- A broker created a company with two plans that really should have been one plan. For example, two LTD plans were created to support different billing locations when only one should have been created.
- Early payroll integrations where two tax IDs necessitated the creation of two companies, duplicating all benefits. This is not necessary in Employee Navigator.
While Employee Navigator built a great infrastructure, Ease made life easier for brokers. Moving forward, any new features added to Employee Navigator will have the “ease touch” added. To drive this home, our Product Management Team is now led by three Directors, two from Ease and one from Employee Navigator. You will begin to experience initial changes beginning in December, with the more significant updates coming in 2024. December highlights include:
- Making the company list of employees is easier to use
- Set defaults for new plans to require beneficiary & auto-drop for over-age dependents
- Improvements to Employee Navigator’s open enrollment reporting
- Presenting the local time throughout the application, rather than defaulting to Eastern time
- Quick access to last viewed companies
- Add a term rule on plans for the 15th of the month
- Add the ability to collect Coordination of Benefits details for dental and vision plans
- Remove required benefits for STD plans that do not drive eligibility: Waiting & benefit periods
- Add knockout questions to Cafeteria and Universal Plans
- Adding an additional medical plan option: Medical Gap
- Support offering two HRAs
- Dropping the requirement that an employee enroll in medical to contribute to a HSA
- Add support for a second voluntary life plan
There has been some confusion from brokers that only work with Ease regarding Employee Navigator’s fees.
- Carrier integrations: No cost from Employee Navigator or the integrated partners. This includes all the ancillary, worksite, medical, and fringe integrations.
- Payroll integrations: Employee Navigator does not charge any fees directly to brokers or employers using payroll integrations. Some payroll companies pass along fees directly to employers; however, those fees will generally be lower than Ease. For details regarding any fees, please reach out directly to the payroll partners. When companies move to EN, the current payment methodology will be continued.
- TPA integrations: Employee Navigator does not charge any fees directly to brokers or employers using FSA or COBRA integrations. Some TPAs do pass along fees directly to employers; however, those fees will generally be lower than Ease. For details regarding any fees, please reach out directly to the TPAs.
- 834 EDI: This is an older technology for transmitting medical elections. Employee Navigator charges $0.45 per covered employee per month. The $0.45 is only charged if a group is using the 834 EDI feed, which is optional. Ease released a comparable feature in 2022 and has similar fees.
Q: When will Ease Sunset?
A: Our current plan, subject to extension, is to migrate all customers by December 1, 2025 (previously we stated no plans should renew after 12-1-24 which is slightly different). We made this change based on broker feedback. The earliest the Ease platform would be sunset is December 2025.
Q: How much manual work will be involved in the migration of companies?
A: We believe virtually all data for 95%+ of the companies will be supported via the migration tool. The remainder will have a few fields that may need clarification. Brokers will have a report that will identify any issues before migrating a group. The migration tool will have multiple releases over time with each successive update providing support for more data to be migrated. An example of a setting which a broker may need to manually configure would be a company that has 26 pay periods and 24 deductions.
Q: Will Employee Navigator provide HR training?
A: Yes, we will be conducting dozens of training sessions at no cost for HR managers and will provide access to these recorded sessions. These sessions will walk through the different functional areas to help show HR how to use Employee Navigator. These free sessions will be announced in 2024.
Q: Can more broker users have phone support access?
A: Yes, Employee Navigator has two licensing tiers, with and without phone access. EN’s licensing fees for users who have phone support are generally lower than Ease’s fees, thus Ease users should not need to budget for increases in licensing fees.
Q: Employee Navigator requires SS#s, and Ease does not. What changes will be made to EN?
A: Employee Navigator will allow a broker or HR to add an employee without a SS# and the employee will be required to enter their SS# during the enrollment process.
Q: I use a GA or other company to build plans and provide ongoing eligibility maintenance, will we be able to continue using their services with EN?
A: Yes, Employee Navigator is enhancing its partner invitations (Teams in Ease) to support GA’s and other 3rd parties. We know many brokers rely on GA and others and we are 100% committed to supporting and expanding the GA and enroller channel.
Q: If a group migrates from Ease to Employee Navigator in the middle of 2024, how is Employee Navigator going to handle the 2024 ACA Reporting Year? Will ACA filing be done on Ease in 2025?
A: The current and prior employees and enrollment will be moved to Employee Navigator. Thus, there should be minimal work to compete 1095s for the 2024 reporting year.
Q: Will we be able to move groups over to Employee Navigator at our own pace to make sure we really understand what we are doing before rolling it all over?
A: Yes, brokers will be able to move customers from Ease to Employee Navigator at their own pace. We anticipate brokers moving 1 or 2 groups initially to be sure it works. After that, we are designing the migration tool to allow a broker to migrate 25, 50 or more companies at a time. We will be releasing an updated version of Ease’s Partner Invitation tool to make it easy for brokers to invite 3rd parties like GAs & builders into their license to provide additional support if they desire.
Q: Does Employee Navigator require groups to use the carrier connections for enrollment?
A: No, Employee Navigator does not require groups to use carrier integrations. That was previously a policy at Ease, but Employee Navigator does not have this requirement and we do not plan on adding this in the future.
Q: Should existing Employee Navigator (not Ease) brokers expect to see cost increases?
A: Employee Navigator has always focused on maintaining a low-cost fee structure for brokers. We have not increased broker license fees on existing brokers in ten years. We are unaware of any other software product that has kept fees steady for that length of time. We are committed to ensuring Employee Navigator is the most affordable product in the market for brokers, but it is also important that the business has the resources to continue to re-invest in the product.
Q: Will I have to notify carriers when a group is migrated?
A: No, Employee Navigator will take care of the notification.
Q: Will employers on Ease need new login credentials after the migration?
A: Yes, as part of the migration, brokers will have a dashboard of migrated companies in Employee Navigator. Once brokers complete their data checks after the migration has been completed, they will mark the company as “Active” in Employee Navigator and an invitation will be sent to HR to register.
I have read hundreds of comments from Ease brokers representing years of personal relationships and trust. While our relationship with Ease brokers has just begun, we recognize that your reputation and livelihoods are closely linked to Ease. Three hundred employees are dedicated each day to earning your trust, just as we have successfully done for brokers over the past decade. Undertaking the migration of over three million employees is not a small feat. Nevertheless, we are confident that our agnostic marketplace, low-cost approach, and unwavering commitment to quality will generate greater revenue and retention for Ease users than any other broker solution in the U.S."