It’s that time of year again! The outside air is turning crisp. Football is on TV all weekend. And, unfortunately, not a single HR tech or benefits professional has any time to enjoy this wondrous season! After all, this is implementation time. There are project plans to move along, deadlines to meet! I think Shakespeare said it best in Hamlet: “By the prickling of my thumbs, something evil this way comes… open enrollment season is fast approaching.” Or something like that.
My teammates are all buried in various implementations around the country, but they are also collecting insights (battle scars) that may be great tips to help your company’s HR efforts. One of those comes from our favorite San Diegan, Paula. She’s working with a company on an HRIS install (you know, the all-in-one systems where HR, payroll and benefits share the same database) and, as is often the case, the company she’s working with has found its benefits module lacking – particularly on the issue of “waived” coverage.
Here’s one of Paula’s tips for benefits /Affordable Care Act (ACA) Reporting:
“I am continually amazed at how many systems do not set up ‘waive‘ as its own [plan choice] option, on the back end, which would make any kind of reporting much simpler. This system, and many others, does not do this or track the reason for an employee waiving coverage. I have been recommending this on all recent implementations so there is a trail for any types of appeals.”
I thought this was a great tip – especially once the ACA roll-out settles down and the IRS starts assessing penalties for employers not offering “qualifying and affordable” coverage. After all, in the years to come, many of our wonderful blog readers may receive letters putting their companies on the hot seat and asking them to prove they offered coverage for full-time employees.
One option you may want to explore is putting together a process around waived coverage. The way Paula has set it up is both a system change and a process change. She used a combination of the benefits election screens, a report writer and a communication portal to build out a process that will empower this employer to vigorously defend any IRS inquires. You may want to look at doing something similar. Having waive set up the same as other plan options can provide a full census of active and waived elections, whereas in most systems these are separate reports. This can also help track active employees who waive a portion of the year and have coverage another portion as this will need to be reported on the 1094/1095 forms each year.
If an employee chooses the option of waive coverage through the enrollment process, they are sent a form letter (since this system can’t do an additional data collection task in the midst of its open enrollment wizard.) Dependent on system capabilities, the letter can display once the option is waived, can be accessed via a resource library or be sent directly from HR. The letter has two parts: data collection and education. As you can see in the illustration, this employer now can get feedback on why the employee waived coverage. Was it due to a spouse’s plan? But what I really like is the “consequences” section where the ACA impacts are fully explained.
Now, every situation and system is different, but I thought this might be a helpful example of how system setup – or alas, manual process – can be used to mitigate a potential risk. What great project management! Of course, you would certainly want to check with your vendor, broker and/or legal counsel on the best strategy for your workforce.
We truly wish you the best during this implementation season and hope you’ll send in your best stories, frustrations or system praise so we can share. Subscribe to this blog by clicking the nearby button to get regular updates. By the way – if you’ll be at October’s HR Technology conference, I’ll see you there. If any of you would like me to research any vendor, system or issue while there, please know I’m always happy to help.
Decision support functionality has been gaining popularity in the Benefits Administration space for quite some time. Decision support tools can be an added functionality of your existing Ben Admin system or it could be a stand-alone tool which can “bolt on” to your existing Ben Admin system. The level of decision support varies drastically from education only to comparison tools to more sophisticated recommendation engines.
There are a number of stand-alone decision support tools that exist out there- ranging from extremely complex to “third grade” simple. The avatar model has gained popularity with the onset of the Defined Contribution approach to benefits. If the avatar solution is not offered via the Ben Admin system, there are multiple “bolt-on” options that exist; Jellyvision, Navera, and WebMD are just a couple examples of more serious competitors. These types of solutions can range across the board depending on what the employer is trying to accomplish. For example, some will only offer guidance on Medical plans and others will help evaluate voluntary benefit offerings.
The tools fall into two categories: “help me choose” or “help me use.” Help me choose what option is best utilizing decision support tool predictive modeling capabilities or help me use the Benefits Administration system to select my benefits.
The graphic below highlights some of the competitors of this decision support approach, and how they are seen in the market.
(We’d like to give our good friend, Rhonda Marcucci, a shout out for providing the foundation to put this graphic together.)
Recent studies indicate that less than 5% of employees actually use the decision support tools offered, unless there is some form of incentive to go through the system. If no incentives are offered, there is the potential for an additional cost without much return.
Does your organization utilize a decision support tool? Have you used one when enrolling in your benefits? Let us know your thoughts on decision support by commenting below.
It’s been a busy year for private exchanges with more to come in 2016. Despite many successes, employers and investors are beginning to wonder: Are private exchanges delivering on the promises they’ve made? Are they making the grade? Lockton Benefit Group’s Director of Exchange Solutions, Mike Smith, answers these questions and more in a new article for the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism (IHC) and as a panelist at IHC’s 2015 Private Exchange Forum in Baltimore.
Read more about whether private exchanges are making the grade on Lockton.com.
Lockton Compliance Shares New ACA Reporting Resource
Some of our friends in Lockton Compliance Services created this little grid that gives a quick look at due dates and potential extensions related to ACA reporting, and we thought it was so helpful it needed to be shared.
The grid includes a link to the IRS extension form (Form 8809) that employers can use to obtain an extension from the deadlines to submit reporting forms to the IRS ( Feb. 29, 2016 for paper filings, Mar. 31, 2016 for e-filings). There is also a link to the IRS’s FIRE webpage through which Form 8809 may be filed electronically.
Employers that want or need an extension of the Feb. 1, 2016 deadline to give employees and other individuals a Form 1095-C (or, in some cases, 1095-B) have to ask for the extension in a letter to the IRS. You can view a model letter here.
If you have any questions about ACA compliance and extensions, please comment below and we will work with Lockton’s Compliance Team to get you some answers.
What should an employer do if an Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting vendor promises compliance with ACA reporting because of the employer’s “good faith” effort? Calling the recent tumultuous landscape the ‘ACA land of the unknown,’ Brad Mandacina who runs Lockton Benefit Group’s HR Technology and Outsourcing Practice, tells Employee Benefit Adviser that employers should proceed with caution before relying on a vendor’s assessment of what the IRS will actually categorize as good faith. You can read the full article here.
What do you think about the “good faith” effort? Have you heard this promise from a vendor? Comment your thoughts below.
Check out Lockton Benefit Group’s Director of Exchange Solutions here at Lockton, Mike Smith, as he shares his thoughts on achieving better consumer engagement in an article published by the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism.
My team and I have been up to our elbows with everything ACA and when someone shared these Catberts comic strips with me, I had to share them with you. Catbert understands ACA all too well. Thank you Catbert for perfectly expressing what we’ve all been thinking!
In all seriousness, if you are needing assistance with your ACA compliance or reporting we are here to help! A few weeks ago we posted about some of the vendors in the ACA reporting game that have announced they’ve reached capacity for 2015 and the announcements are still coming. Stay tuned for more updates, but in the meantime have a laugh with good old Catbert.
Today’s post comes from my colleague, Steve Tomac. Steve is part of Lockton’s Exchange Solutions Practice, and he recently attended the Private Healthcare Exchanges Conference. Here is his recap:
Last month, I attended Employee Benefit News’ annual Private Healthcare Exchanges Conference in Chicago, sponsored by SourceMedia.
As is the case with most private HIX conferences, the cast of attendees – more than 350 brokers, carriers and technology providers – was familiar and friendly. Insurance associates aren’t boring at all! We’re smart too, or at least I like to think so.
For me, the trick to getting the most from these conferences is to know going into them that I will always learn something new. This conference did not disappoint. In addition to hundreds of attendees, the conference featured 40 speakers over two days. That’s a lot of information! I’m happy to report I gleaned several nuggets related to new technology approaches and new private exchange experiences shared by employers.
But my biggest take-away is one with which I was already familiar: A lot of giants in other industries that stood still found themselves getting trumped by new players in their space.
Another take-away … Much like opening your eyes to a new idea, private exchanges don’t have to be that mysterious. As one speaker pointed out at the conference: “Private health exchanges are not a big deal, just another way to deliver benefits.”
The more I think about that, the more I tend to agree, and that actually makes me both excited and a bit calmer when I am asked, “What really is a private exchange?”
Finally, a reoccurring message shared by employers at the conference (and it seems I hear this all of the time) is that employee benefits communication and education are key to the success of their private exchange implementation and continue to be vital to the ongoing success of their overall benefit strategy.
Next up on the conference schedule is the Private Exchange FORUM September 1-2 in Baltimore.
My colleague, Mike Smith, Lockton Benefit Group Director of Exchange Solutions, is a featured panelist at the conference’s opening general session, entitled “Private Exchanges: What’s Working, What’s Not and What Lies Ahead.”
Look for a recap of his session and others next month. Until then … enjoy the last few weeks of summer!
In case you missed it, last week we shared some of the ACA technology vendor cutoff dates. We have a few more ACA technology vendor updates we’d like to share.
The following ACA technology vendors have notified us of their cutoff dates for taking new clients this year:
- ADP Major Accounts – June 17, 2015
- ADP National Accounts – Mid-July 2015
- Equifax – August 2015
- Health e(fx) – July 31, 2015
- Sovos will be increasing prices in July
- PlanSource will also be increasing the price of their ACA solution on July 2, and again on July 15 and August 15
- WorxTime will continue to take on new clients; however, after Q4 they won’t be able to guarantee successful implementations by 2016
- Maestro will only take 50 new clients per month through September
As you can see, time is running out faster than the fuse of a firework! If you haven’t found a solution to manage your reporting requirements, now is the time. If you have any other ACA compliance technology vendor updates to add, please send them our way by commenting below. Have a great Fourth of July weekend!