A broker’s tale: How Bernie Lowe & Associates embraced its new role in the age of the ACA

Is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) going away, or is it here to stay? This has been an ongoing debate ever since the statute was signed into law.

At that moment, organizations fell into one of two camps: those who hid under their desks expecting it would eventually go away via an administration change or a court ruling, and those who realized it was another opportunity to prove their worth to clients and potential prospects.

Bernie Lowe & Associates (BLA) was among the latter. This insurance brokerage firm works with groups such as employers, cities, municipalities, colleges, and school districts to broker services like healthcare, short and long-term disability, and wellness. And BLA knew from the start that adjusting to the ACA’s changes wasn’t going to be easy.

BLA heard the same horror story from one potential prospect after another: Completing 1095 forms is a nightmare, and a lot of payroll vendors don’t do a very good job with it. Instead of shying away from the task at hand, BLA embraced the challenge. Of course, it couldn’t have done it without a little help. 

We spoke to BLA CEO and President Skip Lowe and BLA Performance Specialist Duane Litogot to learn more about the shifting role of the broker in the age of ACA enforcement, and how finding a reliable solution enabled it to provide customer service “beyond the product.”

The instant impact of the ACA

The ACA was one of the few pieces of legislation that didn’t go through conference committee; it was passed quickly. From the moment it was introduced and implemented, the ACA hit everyone, all at once, with an all-encompassing labyrinth of information. As a result, BLA’s relationship with its clients changed dramatically. 

There was an immediate need for the organization’s services and benefits support. Clients wanted to know everything they could about the ACA: What does the law mean for them? What are their responsibilities? 

BLA knew it had to get out in front of this quickly. The company wrote a letter to all of its clients and informed them of the reality of the situation: The ACA is here, and it’s here to stay. We’re going to support you and help you out the best we can.

Spokesperson for their clients

BLA recognized that ACA compliance was going to be a dire need for its clients – especially as it pertains to the reporting side of things. 

At the beginning, many prospective clients believed the law didn’t apply to them because they were a “city” or a “county” or a “government entity.” This forced BLA to take on an educational role to ensure clients understood how it all worked.

Despite being skeptical in the first year, clients began relying heavily on BLA to handle the reporting for them. By the third year, any concerns about adapting to the ACA had dissipated. BLA had become somewhat of a spokesperson for its clients – someone they knew had their back.

BLA was able to gain this level of trust by utilizing a trustworthy partner of its own: SyncStream Solutions.

The value of a trustworthy solution

Unlike other brokerage firms, BLA handles everything for its clients, checking their eligibility, producing the 1095s, and handling the filing. The client only needs to send BLA the payroll, and BLA takes care of the rest.  

None of this would be possible without SyncStream’s solution.

The ACA is nuanced and complicated. There is a lot of data to integrate, track, and submit. SyncStream’s product made managing all this easier by offering an additional layer of support. 

BLA could now take ACA tracking and reporting off their clients’ desks, freeing them up to focus their attention on more pressing business matters. Now that BLA had bookends on all their clients’ data (before, during, and after), these organizations could rest assured their ACA compliance was being handled carefully and correctly. 

SyncStream’s support, knowledge, and reliability proved to be such a valuable asset that, despite originally working through an intermediary to get to SyncStream’s services, BLA realized it would be easier – and make more sense – to work with the ACA solution provider directly. This proved to be a wise decision, as the SyncStream solution has been a major retention tool for BLA.

The broker’s role moving forward

The introduction of the ACA brought about a lot of change. For BLA, it meant more competition from other brokers. It also meant that clients began to expect an increased level of support around ACA reporting and compliance.

BLA’s partnership with SyncStream enabled it to offer its clients an invaluable service as well as additional piece of mind, saving those employers time, energy, and the headache of trying to manage ACA compliance by themselves.

Tags: 1095 forms, public organizations, partner series