Peak Performance Group aims to change the employee benefits landscape with “Benefit Hackers” initiative

RICHMOND, VA – Though it may sound nefarious, hacking into your employee benefits is quite the opposite.

Peak Performance Group, the worksite benefits communication and enrollment firm founded in Richmond, VA in 2001, is changing the employee benefits landscape with its “Benefits Hackers” initiative which aims to help employers and employees by taking them deeper into their benefit options and implementing “hacks” to make benefits work better for both sides.

Over the last 10 years, PPG founders John and Laura Millen have watched as benefit costs have gone up and coverage has gone down across the country. As small business owners themselves, they felt compelled to work to change that pattern.

“Over the last 10 years, healthcare costs have roughly doubled, and that cost has been passed on to employees,” said John Millen, who began his career as a mechanical engineer and who says fixing things is in his blood. “While costs have roughly doubled, the care has gone down dramatically.”

Working in that environment, PPG set out to find a way to help navigate the costly and confusing world of healthcare insurance and employee benefits by finding ways to best take advantage of options that many plans offer but are under-utilized. They also work to find new options to fill gaps in coverage. PPG has assembled a small but mighty team of experts from inside the healthcare industry and outside the insurance arena to put their ideas into action recently hiring healthcare executive veteran Debra Willis, human resource expert Susan Keeton and corporate wellness program developer Melanie Eads.

“We say we’re worksite benefit specialists but really we are strategists,” Millen said. “We strategize ways to use other lines of coverage and solutions that are non-insurance related to help solve problems for small businesses and employers.”

Susan Keeton joined PPG in January after spending 30 years in corporate human resources with such multi-location companies as Heilig-Meyers Furniture, AMF Bowling, and AVAIL Vapor.

“I bring to the table the employer perspective, I’ve been on the other side of the table for 30 years — meeting with brokers, assessing benefits, trying to understand what benefits would be best for employees and then helping employees trying to take advantage of them,” Keeton said. “What we are championing is the desire to help the employee healthcare and benefits system heal or become less broken. We don’t try to fix that health insurance piece, but we can help them choose a health insurance plan that is going to have the products their employees need and find products from other carriers that are bridging the gap.”

The idea of bridging the gap in insurance plans is one of PPG’s best hacks. Millen said he has spent the last eight years perfecting this plan to make sure employers know that they can afford to provide employees with the benefit of having zero deductible or zero co-pay options in their healthcare plan. In fact, Millen said this can often save employers money.

Melanie Eads, who joined PPG sales and marketing team this year, spent 19 years creating corporate wellness programs for companies such as American Family Fitness to increase productivity and decreasing workers comp. She said she sees the employers who are willing to delve deeper into their options and find fixes to create more comprehensive benefits as the heroes.

“I see the business owners as the hero because they’re the ones who have to put the effort in and make the decision to say, ‘Yes, I’m going to do this for my employees and my business. My employees matter.’”

Eads said the “hacking” she is doing is often just helping explain things better to clients and employees who may never have stopped to consider their benefits much beyond medical insurance and what their co-pay and monthly out-of-pocket costs might be. In fact, she said as an employee herself, no one ever explained to her how much pay-check protection or disability insurance she should have if she ever got sick or could not work.

“Employees need someone to sit down with them and say, ‘How long would you be able to go without a paycheck if you were sick or something happened?’” Eads said. “We offer ways to engage employees with their benefits 1-on-1 but also we create campaigns to help employees learn about products and to sign up for those products.”

“We take what they have and hack those benefits to be better for the company and better for employees,” she said, citing examples of building legal services, identity theft, zero-dollar telemedicine copay into benefit programs while keeping costs down for business owners. “We are uniquely positioned to be able to help them.”

Keeton described what PPG’s mission is when it comes to educating both employees and employers about benefits packages and bringing a more personal touch to the vague world of healthcare and employee benefits.

“The passion that drives me is helping companies take best advantage of their human capital and that means being able to attract and retain the best quality employees and giving those employees all of the tools, they need to be successful.”


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