Employee Benefits | Cowden Associates

Cowden views our role as an advisor to be an extension of the team that manages a company’s health & benefits plan. Our consultative process utilizes a multi-phase, strategic approach to assist clients in developing a comprehensive plan to manage your health & benefits program. Our services include:

  • Employee Benefits Plan Strategy Development
  • Employee Benefits Plan Financial Management
  • Employee Benefits Ongoing Client Service and Administration

We consult on a wide range of health & benefits programs, including:

  • Medical and Prescription Drug
  • Retiree Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Life
  • Disability
  • Voluntary Benefits
  • Employee Wellness Programs
  • Stop Loss

Click here to view practice brochure Please contact us to learn more about how we can assist you in managing your health & benefits plan.

Benefit Plan Management

At Cowden we believe that having a multi-year strategic approach is paramount in managing and maintaining a company’s health & benefits plan. Our approach consists of:

  • Short and Long Term Strategy Development
  • Financial Analysis
  • Risk Analysis
  • Cost Containment Strategies

Strategy Development

Our staff of health and benefits professionals will work with your team to develop a health & benefits plan strategy that meets the objectives of your diverse business needs. We will focus on market and industry competitiveness of the current plan design and costs, plan cost drivers, and funding arrangements. Based on this analysis we will develop both short- and long-term strategic objectives that will align with your benefits and overall business objectives.

Financial Analysis and Containment Strategies

Cowden will assist your organization in the total financial management of the health & benefits plan. We will analyze claim and utilization information on an ongoing basis to assess and predict plan performance compared to the established plan budget. Our ongoing analysis will focus on the appropriateness and impact of implementing various cost containment and utilization management strategies, coupled with plan design offering recommendations. This proactive approach ensures that there are no surprises at renewal and allows ample time for adjustments to be reviewed and considered prior to implementation.

Communication Assistance

Assisting employees in understanding the benefits being offered to them is a key to ensuring employee satisfaction and overall program success. Be it on paper or online our professionals can assist with developing a communication program that begins at open enrollment and continues throughout the plan year; guaranteeing that a consistent, comprehensive message is being provided to your employees.

Employee Benefit Center (EBC)

The Employee Benefit Center is an online portal that allows employees to access benefits information and helps communicate the value of a clients’ benefit package.

Compliance Assistance

Cowden works closely with our clients to provide assistance in understanding the complexities of the laws and legislative requirements related to health & benefits plans. We focus on a myriad of topics such as Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), ERISA, COBRA and HIPAA, as well as state-based legislative changes that may impact your plan. As part of our services, we can provide you with required model notices, prepare and review Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs), Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBCs), Welfare Form 5500 Filings and Summary Annual Reports, and assist in meeting the PPACA employer reporting requirements.

MyWave Connect

As a value added service to our clients, we provide access to the Zywave’s® MyWave Connect portal. This portal is your one-stop resource not just for health and welfare related questions but for all your compliance, HR and other business needs. To access this tool please
click here.

Document Preparation Services

Keeping up with the various legal and regulatory requirements imposed on employee benefits plans is a daunting task for any employer. Maintaining required plan documents and benefits notices are no exceptions. For example:

  • Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). ERISA is the federal law that regulates most private sector employee benefits plans. Among other things, ERISA obligates plan administrators (i.e., employers) to maintain a written plan document and to maintain and distribute a Summary Plan Description (SPD) for their benefits plans. Because booklets and certificates of coverage issued by insurance carriers or third-party administrators are designed to comply with state insurance law (and not federal law), they generally do not satisfy ERISA’s requirements for plan documents/SPDs. Therefore, to comply with ERISA, employee benefit plans should have a “wrap” plan document/SPD, in addition to the carrier’s booklet or certificate.
  • Section 125. Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code requires an employer to maintain a written plan document in order to allow employees to contribute toward the cost of benefits on a pre-tax basis. This document is sometimes referred to as a Premium-Only Plan (POP), a premium conversion plan or a pre-tax premium plan.
  • Benefit Notices. A number of federal laws, including the Accountable Care Act (ACA), Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA), Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act (NMHPA), and several others require employers to provide certain notices and disclosures to benefit plan participants and beneficiaries, at various times or upon the occurrence of specified events.

Developing and maintaining these documents and notices can be expensive, but the cost – in terms of audit penalties, litigation expenses, etc. – of not having them could be exponentially more.

Cowden has an easy, cost-effective solution to assist our clients in preparing ERISA wrap documents, Section 125 POP documents and benefit notices, to keep your company’s health and welfare plan in compliance. Our team of benefits professionals will guide and assist your benefits team through the process of developing and maintaining the required plan documents. With Cowden’s document preparation and compliance services, you can rest easy knowing you have the documents you need, when you need them.

Renewal Management

Cowden takes a pro-active approach to the renewal process by completing a pre-renewal projection so that there are no surprises at the renewal and to address any necessary plan changes that may be appropriate. Our process focuses on potential cost containment strategies and innovative approaches including disease and utilization management, plan design modification, funding, and contribution strategies. Within this process, we will utilize a variety of benchmarking surveys and resources to assist in assessing the market competitiveness of your company’s plan offerings. Our process provides employers with the knowledge as to how their plan compares to that of their peers, based on industry, geographic region and demographic make-up. The data provides the basis for justifiable plan and cost changes that may need to occur. Upon receipt of the vendor renewal, we review the calculations for accuracy and conduct negotiations on the client’s behalf. We will assist in the establishment of the budget and COBRA rates, as well as modify the contribution strategy as necessary.


PriceModeler, powered by OptumInsightTM, allows Cowden to project premiums for varying plan designs and to compare manual and blended rates between plan designs. The tool:

  • Provides the same data used by actuaries to price health plans
  • Provides detailed plan design modeling for more than 60 benefit components
  • Models the cost implications of proposed plan design changes
  • Provides relative cost differential of various plan design alternatives
  • Assists in the development of premium equivalent rates for self-funded plans

Vendor Management

As part of Cowden’s client administration consulting services, we provide ongoing vendor management for your benefits plans. We act as an extension of your Human Resources and benefits administration team and act as a liaison between you and your vendors when contentious issues arise. We also keep our clients up to date regarding changes within vendor products and services and assist in the evaluation of the implementation of new programs and offerings.

Wellness Consulting

Cowden believes that having a happy and healthy workforce is integral to the success of your company. However, the changing rules and regulations that apply to the offering of a wellness program can be confusing. Cowden works with you to eliminate the confusion and to develop a program that is comprehensive and compliant. We can assist in developing a long-term wellness program based on your culture, budget, utilization patterns and desired outcomes.