Editor's note: When this broker article was published in 2016, the ACA was still around, adding stress to employers trying to get ready for open enrollment season.
So here we are in 2017, heading into open enrollment soon.
So much has changed in a year, and yet so much stays the same. Employers are still dealing with the ACA, still managing heavy administrative burdens, and still feeling stress.
This is where you come in. Enter the trustworthy, knowledgeable broker, ready to help:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), new technology and shifting demographics have created a perfect storm that’s forever changed the benefits landscape.
Thanks to the ACA, employees now have more benefits options than ever before, making it even more important for HR leaders to ensure their workforce is educated on what benefits are being offered and who is eligible.
According to the most recent ADP Midsized Business Owners Study, some 60 percent of those surveyed said the ACA has made benefits administration more complex. But very few had hired additional staff to support ACA-related tasks.
This year also presents a new challenge, as it marks the first time businesses will receive “marketplace notices” that are generated by the marketplace or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These are activated when an employee applies for and receives a premium tax credit or a direct subsidy to help pay for health care coverage from state or federal marketplaces.
The notice gives the employer a chance to appeal the premium tax credit, which can lead to even more paperwork for HR leaders who are already busy preparing to embark on another open enrollment season.
So how can benefits brokers help ease the administrative burden?
Here are a few tips.
Start the conversation early
During pre-enrollment meetings, incorporate questions that are geared toward assessing broader business objectives, strategic goals for 2017, and the human capital initiatives the company is considering to meet those goals. Assessing those needs now will put you in the driver’s seat so you can help your clients deliver the maximum return on investments they make in their people by defining the right combination of technology, change management, process improvement, service and on-going support.
Businesses need and expect more from their brokers. They are looking beyond traditional insurance and benefits administration and need expertise in all areas of human capital. Brokers who embrace this by providing insight through benchmarking data and analytics, offering set up, connection and optimization support, as well as a variety of ongoing service models (either directly or through partners) will continue to gain market share over those who don’t.
Get ahead of compliance concerns
According to a recent survey by the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, the most difficult function for employers to accomplish in-house is complete and efficient compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. Regulatory uncertainty has many companies worried about the design and stability of long-term benefits plans. Brokers who build benefits plans that reflect potential regulatory outcomes give employers more confidence that future regulatory risk is being managed. When it comes to health care reform, there are many resources available that can help brokers navigate the ACA. Coming to the table aware of future regulatory challenges and helping clients understand potential penalties can help you stand out, stay ahead and stay in control.
Discuss innovative, integrated technology solutions
The most recent ACA reporting requirements demand that data be pulled on payroll, HR, leave of absence and health care benefits, which is challenging if this data is stored on separate systems. Advocate for a single integrated technology solution where payroll, benefits, HR, and time and attendance systems can all talk to each other. This will create less administrative effort on the HR staff so they can spend more time focusing on employee engagement. It will also make it easy for employees to access all of their HR information in one place, whether online or on a mobile device.
Use new technology to take the wheel
As clients increasingly expect you to be an expert on “all things HCM,” keeping them updated can get tricky when you have to deal with multiple vendors and data sources. Some HCM providers are now offering technology designed to let brokers be as hands-on as their clients want in order to support their HCM needs. With the client’s permission, some vendors now let you see all of your mutual clients’ information under one umbrella, especially benefits related information, which allows your teams to become more efficient during enrollment season. For example, instead of having to wait for HR to give you census data, your firm can run a report on the client’s behalf and pull this data for them. Communication is more important than ever and tools like these enable you to identify those client employees that are eligible but not participating in plans so you can more easily help target education and marketing efforts directly to them.
Time is money to your firm and open enrollment is one of the most important times of year for you to shine with your clients and provide unexpected but added value. Seize the opportunity to show off your skills as a trusted consultant on everything related to human capital — beyond just insurance and benefits administration.