When Merrell Botello, a benefits consultant with Burnham Benefits, first heard about Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements (ICHRAs), she was skeptical. “To be honest,” she says, “it just sounded like there would be way too much work involved to justify the cost savings.”


Botello has been in the benefits space for more than 10 years and prior to that she worked in human resources. Her background makes her acutely aware of the impact a solution could have on her clients’ HR teams and her own team’s bandwidth. When ICHRAs first went into effect, she recalls seeing one of her colleagues manually entering ACA affordability calculations into a spreadsheet for a client. She couldn’t imagine having to do that for her mid-market clients who had hundreds of employees.


“I could tell from the beginning that it was a great way to save my clients money, but until I met the team at SureCo, I didn’t know that there was an administration partner out there that could turn it into a viable option.”


Until recently, Botello says she could rely on other levers like slimming down a network or jumping carriers to keep renewal rates down for her clients. But in the aftermath of COVID and with an aging workforce, claims are higher than ever, and oftentimes most of those levers have already been pulled. 


“According to data from Burnham analytics, we’re seeing average renewal increases of 15.2%,” says Botello. “And those rates aren’t going down. People need something different. We’ve been doing group benefits the same way for decades, and we just need to really try something new. We don’t have a choice not to consider ICHRAs anymore.”


Botello started seriously looking into ICHRAs when one of her clients who was a CFO asked about them. His company was facing a $300,000 Rx claim every year for an employee with cystic fibrosis, and the company had to switch carriers annually to keep rates down. “It got to the point where they were being quoted increases from 25% to 55% from different carriers,” says Botello. “I was in a pickle. I never want to deliver those renewals to my client!”


At the CFO’s urging, Botello dug into ICHRAs. After seeing a demo of SureCo’s Enrollment Platform, Botello had a better understanding of how an ICHRA could work for her client. “Now it’s realistic to me that with the right partner this is an actual solution, and it’s not just a crazy idea,” she adds.


During a recent SureCo webinar with SHRM, Botello outlined what she looks for in an ICHRA administration partner. “You need the right client with the right benefits consultant, with the right ICHRA admin partner who has the right technology to make it work,” she said during the virtual event. She advised the audience to ask the following questions when evaluating potential ICHRA partners:


Will this partner…
  • Work with my existing benefits consultant? ​
  • Provide support after implementation and open enrollment? ​
  • Educate my employees? ​
  • Handle affordability calculations?


Does this platform…
  • Integrate with my HRIS and deduct my company's pre-tax contributions through payroll? ​
  • Provide robust reporting metrics?​
  • Allow employees to easily compare plans?​
  • Pay carriers directly? 


“If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know,’ to any of those questions, then they’re not the right partner,” she concluded.

Watch the full webinar on demand to hear more from Botello and the SureCo team, and learn whether an ICHRA solution might be right for you and your clients.


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