Through the ups and downs in the economy, the challenges of legislative changes, and modernization of technology over the past three decades, Vanessa Hayes has always felt like she could count on Michigan Planners when she needed them.
And the chief financial officer for the Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick engineering and design firm says she’s not alone in that sentiment.
The Shelby Township, Michigan, firm has approximately 145 employees, and virtually all of them feel the same way.
“Our employees love Michigan Planners. It’s not just us as an employer,” Vanessa said.
Founded in 1962, Michigan Planners has provided AEW with comprehensive insurance and support services since 1973. Michigan Planners has provided AEW with health insurance-related benefits such as basic insurance needs, life insurance, short-term disability benefits, and long-term care. It also assists AEW with ERISA compliance and other government-related compliance issues, especially as it has pertained to changes in legislation over the years.
They also have reviewed plan documents to make sure they were complete and proper, and they have helped employees determine their eligibility for various services.
Vanessa, who oversees human resources functions as well as its finances, has been with AEW for 28 years and has worked with Michigan Planners the entire time.
She says there have been many changes over the years, including Cobra compliance and Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting, and they rely on Michigan Planners for all of it. In the rare event that their primary contact, Mike DiLorenzo, doesn’t know an answer, the company has an ERISA attorney on call, Clark Hill.
“I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have them. There’s no way I could keep up on all the compliance issues with regard to benefits,” she said.
Vanessa said she has worked with Mike since 1994, and she describes him and his assistance as “phenomenal.” AEW has always offered excellent, comprehensive benefits to their team members, and the costs have remained very affordable over the years. In fact, AEW has never reduced its benefits.
“He has literally saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years with some of his recommendations,” she said, adding that their return on investment is 100 percent with him by their side. “If I have a question, I’ll get a message from him at 5 in the morning, if necessary, in response to an email.”
Along those lines, modern technology has been one of the most significant changes Vanessa has experienced with them over the years. Today, Michigan Planners offers helpful tools, such as the Michigan E-Navigator employee platform, as well as assistance in using technological resources for benefits.
“Things are definitely more automated. There’s no doubt about that,” she said, adding that they used the E-navigator for the first time this year and found it very helpful. It helps them reduce paper, provides a direct connection to some of the supplemental packages AEW offers its employees, and can be integrated with short- and long-term disability benefits.
“It kind of streamlines our efforts, and it also provides good information for employees,” she said. Rather than needing paper copies of documents, employees can access this portal instead.
“That’s been a big change over the years to more of an electronic, digital environment, leading to less paper and more resources at your fingertips,” she said.
Vanessa values the fact that everyone at Michigan Planners is always on top of it. Specifically, she really appreciates their reminders to her to take care of certain tasks, as well as their assistance with changes they had to make due to legislation such as the ACA.
“There’s no way that we have the time or the knowledge to really understand all of the language that comes through this legislation, and they make it simple. They explain it to you,” she said. “When things are required, they send reminders. ‘Don’t forget to fill out this form.’ It’s super helpful to me. I always know they’re going to remind me so I don’t miss something.”
Michigan Planners has even held educational sessions, such as those providing general insurance information and to discuss legislation such as the ACA.
“We don’t know of anyone who can make these meetings interesting,” Vanessa said, jokingly. “People listen and they actually enjoy his presentations. That’s pretty impressive, that people get a kick out of listening to Mike.”
It all boils down to a certain comfort level and personalized service, she said. “You don’t feel just like a number with them,” Vanessa said. “They’re a fantastic company. I can’t say enough. I have never looked for another agent for health insurance since I’ve been here. Why would I?”