American Home Mortgage Embraces Benefits Innovation And ROI


The project consisted of changing the benefit enrollment process for more than 2600 employees. The key players include AHM, the client, Travers O’Keefe, the benefits broker, PerfectSoftware, the HRIS vendor, SHPS, the enrollment website and carrier link vendor, the carriers and ADP, the payroll provider.

Prior process and problems

Every year employees were solicited with paper enrollment. These paper enrollments were sent and collected via the HR department. The company had many carriers and over 100 plan variations. Many of the employees joined the company as part of more than four acquisitions, and brought their carriers, rate structures, forms and enrollment information from the prior HR administration. Discrepancies in census, coverage, employee payroll deductions and gaps in paperwork were not uncommon. The process was very disjointed and there were errors related to employees who had separated from the company. For a small number of plans, the HR system fed the payroll system deduction changes automatically.

The solutions

AHM underwent a significant overhaul of its benefits process. This began with the selection of the enrollment vendor. The benefits broker assisted in this process. SHPS was selected to provide the open enrollment, employee self-service, HR enrollment management as well as the financial link between AHM and the carriers. All of the manual processes of maintaining census, enrolling employees, reconciling billing and sending payments were to be replaced.

Next AHM and the broker determined the new carrier list and negotiated rates. This brought the list of benefit carriers for Medical, Dental, Prescription, Life, Supplemental Life, Spouse Life, Child Life, LTD, STD and Vision down to nine from more than 25. It also provided new benefits that were not available to the employee population prior to the 2004 open enrollment period.

There was a comprehensive implementation of SHPS that included configuring rates, the websites that employees would see, bi-directional electronic feeds with the carriers and feeds to and from the HRIS system.

PerfectSoftware was enlisted to help identify the current exceptions to the rate structures (well over 300 types of exceptions) inherited from the many mergers and acquisitions. PerfectSoftware extracted the necessary wage information directly from the ADP data in order to determine the rolling 12 month annualized salary for salary-based benefits and helped determine the rules for eligibility and coverage. Additionally, PerfectSoftware built an export to the SHPS system including all-important data for the census and open enrollment. This dynamic 1-click export automatically identifies the information necessary and sends it to SHPS via FTP and/or email.

The HR benefits department worked closely with PerfectSoftware, Travers O’Keefe and SHPS to establish a smooth open enrollment. The remote office HR personnel were brought in for training sessions where each of these organizations educated them on the ongoing process and the streamlining that was about to occur. This consulting proved to be invaluable as each organization was able to enhance the value of the total project with their specific expertise. PerfectSoftware was clearly the best choice to handle data manipulation and accuracy. Travers O’Keefe led the benefits design and web enrollment content site creation. SHPS built a customized enrollment site and managed the carrier links and financial links. AHM oversaw the entire project and had a hand in each decision that was made.

The “Benefits”:

The overall benefits for the changes include a significant reduction in benefits administration time, an increase in accuracy and accountability for information, the shift of burden for enrollment from the HR staff to the employee base, financial benefits derived from combining employee populations as well as negotiation, which included the use of electronic systems in place of manual systems. Also helping drive the major savings for AHM was a shift to a self-insured model on many of the benefits provided.

PerfectSoftware’s Specific Contributions:

  • Identify current discrepancies in the employee benefit data
  • Build and manage the export of existing data for upload into SHPS
  • Build an ongoing link to provide census changes on a weekly basis to SHPS
  • Consult on plan design and relate rate structure to current employee population
  • General project management
  • Build an ongoing link to import benefit changes on a weekly basis from SHPS including dependent demographics and coverage
  • Create audit capability for benefits changes
  • Provide deduction information and changes automatically to ADP payroll system
  • Manage expiration of old plan structure in HR data and ADP payroll system
  • Train HR staff on overall process design and specific HRIS considerations
  • Customize HRIS to limit data entry errors on benefits managed via SHPS
  • Create bi-directional HR to Payroll audit process specific to these benefit deductions

Brian Kesselman VP of Technology oversaw the project from PerfectSoftware’s perspective. His take on the whole undertaking:

AHM undertook a considerable project by redesigning its process and its benefits in a very compressed timeframe. By bringing the significant expertise of PerfectSoftware, Travers O’Keefe and SHPS together to work with their highly dedicated Benefits Department, they were able to see the project through to an excellent conclusion. The overall positive enrollment during a 3-week period was about 90 percent of the target population. This means that over 2300 employees logged in, read about their benefit choices, recorded their dependent information and decided what coverage’s to take!

Because PerfectSoftware was part of the process from the beginning, we were able to guide AHM in many areas including technical information, process management, data manipulation and benefits design. Our team was dedicated to providing excellent service to AHM. We put a specific team with over 32 years of HR and HRIS experience on the project in order to ensure success. The monetary and timesavings generated by the efforts of all involved are expected to be able to return investment on the project in less than one year.

From AHM’s perspective:

“I have nothing to say but good things about Perfect Software. Brian Kesselman of PerfectSoftware was indispensable and the project would never have been such a success without him! His insight and approach to this monumental undertaking very quickly marked him as the consummate problem solver on a variety of issues- even those that went far beyond his “Perfect” role. We are a big fan of Brian at AHM!” – Gwen Deutsch, American Home Mortgage HR Benefits Administrator.