ACA advice from a benefits advisor: Core’s thoughts about ACA compliance

Employers have one perspective on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Employee benefits providers have another.

Rather than simply figure out the intricacies of the ACA for itself, Core Benefits, Inc., an employee benefits firm that provides life insurance, short term disability, COBRA, 401(k), and health care services, amongst others, had to understand and react to the law’s impact on its many clients. Having successfully guided a variety of employers through the ACA’s changes, as well as through the law’s various repeal and replace efforts, Core knows what tools are necessary to succeed, and the common mistakes employers make.

Core’s own business has changed as a result of the ACA, moving toward more administrative work and answering more questions, but its handling of the ACA makes the company an excellent resource and advisor for clients.

We spoke to Lisa Gibson, Vice President of Core, for her take on how to succeed in ACA compliance, whether you’re a benefits administrator or an employer.

If you’re a benefits administrator …

By now, it’s pretty well known that ACA reporting isn’t a walk in the park. But a testament to its difficulty is that Core knew—before reporting had even begun—that ACA compliance was something even its team of benefits experts couldn’t accomplish alone.

Finding good technology became the foundation of Core’s strategy for ACA compliance. There were three important factors that Core recommends to any benefits firm looking for an ACA reporting and compliance solution.

  1. Handles the most difficult parts of the process: When Core set out to find technology that could help them handle the ACA burden, it immediately began looking for an automated solution that could accommodate the needs of its clients. Any solution had to be able to generate the codes to fill in lines 14 and 16 of the 1095-C with minimal error, and submit the form to the IRS. These pieces of the form, often touted as the most difficult, are almost impossible to complete error-free without specialized software; making sure your chosen solution has the proper tools to manage them is a must.
  2. Able to adapt based on feedback and evolving regulation: Different companies have different business models, and not every situation is one-size-fits-all. Managing ACA compliance solo would be nearly impossible, but for the best results, you need a partner that is flexible, a good listener, willing to take feedback, and can adjust as the ACA changes. For Core, SyncStream’s active effort to add new functionality based on Core’s feedback has both improved SyncStream’s ACA solution and strengthened its partnership with Core.
  3. Fits the needs and expectations of your clients and business flow: Core has also worked to make the process as simple as possible for its clients, making sure that the additional support of SyncStream does not interfere with their day-to-day business. For Core, a company with high standards and specific workflows, this meant having its in-house software vendor write an extract of any information relevant to the ACA, based on information a client had already provided for other services. The client would then simply verify the information was correct and provide information on any full-time employees that waived coverage. Core and SyncStream would handle the rest, rather than having the client input the data itself. A user-friendly interface makes the whole process easier for clients.

Taking these three markers into account will help you narrow down the best technology solution for your particular business model and needs, no matter how good you are at the administrative parts of the ACA.

If you’re an employer …

This year specifically, many companies have been wavering on their commitment to keeping their data straight. Between the waived penalties of the last few years and the uncertainty in the government about the ACA, employers haven’t felt the need to take the data collection and the deadlines seriously. This, says Core, is their biggest mistake—failing to take the proper actions ahead of time.

While the health care system is definitely in need of some revision—Core agrees that prices of plans and the medical procedures they cover both need to drop—until a law actually passes that abolishes the reporting requirement, companies still need to comply.

Overall, good partnerships and continuous data management are the two best strategies any company can take to ensure sound ACA compliance. Consistently applying these two can work wonders to ease your compliance as an employer, and take some of the burden out of the ACA.

Surviving the ACA

Whether you’re an employer, an employee benefits firm, or a compliance software provider, it is possible to make it through ACA reporting. Just as with any difficult situation, Core has found that survival (and escaping of penalties) is made easier with the help of good partners, like SyncStream, and good guidance.

This is the first post in SyncStream’s blog series looking at how benefits administrators, agents, brokers, HR professionals and payroll providers leverage technology to simplify ACA and EEOC reporting and enhance client relationships.