The Affordable Care Act, new ways to fill the sales pipeline and Zenefits dominated EBA’s BeAdvised blog commentary this year. The top 10 most-read blogs of 2015 detail the growing number of ACA regulations and reporting requirements, explain why advisers don’t accurately understand the threat behind a tech-focused brokerage and highlight simple-yet-effective ways producers can increase existing client revenue and get prospects to open the door.

10) 3 solutions to meeting ACA’s 6055 and 6056 reporting requirements

“When I examine a business problem I often find myself coming back to the classic fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. One area that aligns with Goldilocks’ concept of finding what is ‘just right’ for her needs is the quest to find the right approach for filing and reporting under IRS 6055 and 6056, as required by the Affordable Care Act,” wrote Michael Weiskirch, principal, EmployeeTech, Inc., in March. “Having the ability to track and manage the required data should be happening now. It includes completion of 1094 and 1095-C forms, distribution of these forms to employees by January 2016, filing of these forms to the IRS by February 2016 and the downstream electronic filing by March 2016.”  

9) Jimmy Fallon shouldn’t be the only one writing thank you notes

“Riddle me this: You just had a terrific phone conversation with a new prospect but you failed to book an appointment with them. Now what? Have you ever considered sending a handwritten note to essentially thank them for hanging up on you?” Eric Silverman, principal and owner of the Silverman Benefits Group, wrote in October. “While cutting my teeth in the employee benefits world during my college internship, I was fortunate enough to have the most consummate sales professional as my first mentor. … David was always preaching ‘the art of the handwritten thank you note’ and how it can be used for everything from prospecting initial appointments to showing after the sale appreciation, and everything in between.”

8) ACA myths: A baker’s dozen

“Do you sometimes wonder if our society has made substantial progress over the last 20 years in routing factual information into the hands of educated consumers? While we can point to areas of vast improvement in certain markets, other areas leave us scratching our heads,” wrote Zack Pace, senior vice president, Benefits Consulting at CBIZ, Inc.. in August. “One of those is the realm of the Affordable Care Act. As a benefit consultant, I come across all sorts of ACA mythologies every day. Yes, some of those are conspiracy-based, and others are political in nature, but most of the time, it’s just wrong information.”

7) 5 workplace benefits boomers need now

“Millennials have dominated the national conversation for the past decade, but in all the talk about the newest members of the workforce, we’ve somehow missed their parents — baby boomers. With workers 55 and older projected to make up 25% of the U.S. labor force by 2020, boomers are redefining what it means to be aging in the workforce, and redefining senior benefits in the process. People today are living longer, retiring later and pursuing passions well into their golden years. How can the workplace address the needs of these new ‘senior’ citizens?” Erin Krehbiel, president of ACI Specialty Benefits, wrote in January.

6) The antidote to Zenefits

“There’s a lot of noise right now from broker-friendly vendors that propose to offer a Zenefits alternative so that you can scratch your clients’ itches. We’re recommending certain sustainable HR technology solutions to our own agency clients, so you can make like Zenefits and offer HR technology to keep the letter of record. Nothing wrong with that,” Nelson Griswold, EBA columnist and agency growth consultant, wrote in August. “But as my friend and brilliant agency strategist Kevin Trokey has pointed out, if that’s your only meaningful value to the client, the first broker with a better HR platform can take your letter of record.”

5) The ACA clock is ticking

In August, Brad Mandacina, director of HR technology outsourcing at Lockton Benefit Group, wrote, “Most ACA reporting technology solutions are taking three to four months to implement in time for 2016 reporting. As we draw closer and closer to the end of the year and the end of the ACA technology implementation timeline, many prominent ACA reporting technology vendors are closing their doors on new business for 2015. … As a consumer desperately needing a solution, this is frustrating. As a consultant helping many clients find solutions to solve their ACA reporting needs, this is also frustrating; however, I have to respect that these vendors know their limits.”

4) Why self-funding is about more than just savings

“The more sophisticated employee benefit advisers I know and consult with are increasingly discussing self-funding of the health plan with mid-size employers. With self-funded plans — either fully self-insured or partially self-insured through a group captive — the employer is told that self-funding includes some financial risk but, when implemented correctly for the right employee group, can also provide substantial cost savings to the employer. True. But that misses a value proposition far more compelling to company leadership,” Griswold wrote in July. “The issue is not about simply risk versus reward, but more essentially about control.”

3) Why advisers should just say ‘no’ to RFPs

“’How do we win the RFPs for brokerage services or benefits consulting?’ was one benefit adviser’s question to the other agency owners at a discussion during our most recent Agency Growth Mastermind Summit for our top agency clients. It was, however, the wrong question. A much better question: ‘Why reply at all to benefits RFPs?’” wrote Griswold in August. “Have you ever seen a good RFP for benefits? One that would ensure that the employer selects the right benefit adviser for this increasingly complicated Affordable Care Act era? One that would allow a progressive, consultative benefit advisory firm to differentiate itself from all the transactional brokers? From every single adviser I’ve asked, the answer is, ‘No.’”

2) The benefits formerly known as voluntary

“Voluntary benefits are misnamed, which confuses the market and hurts the sale of these benefits. We need to call these benefits what they really are,” Griswold wrote in May. “Over the years, what we call ‘voluntary’ benefits have been known by other names, including ‘payroll deduction insurance’ and ‘worksite marketing.’ The problem with all of these is that they describe the process but not the purpose of these valuable benefits.”

1) Zenefits has crossed the line

“For those of you who have not seen it, Zenefits, an emerging benefit broker offering free technology, has posted a comparison of their services to many of their competitors across the country. In my opinion, this tactic goes below the line of ethical standards,” Joe Markland, principal, HR Technology Advisors, wrote in September. “Not only does it misrepresent what many of their competitors are offering, but they also seem to be excusing themselves if they are wrong by putting asterisks at the bottom of the comparison …”

Editor's note: Interested in blogging for EBA? Email Editor in Chief Elizabeth Galentine at to learn more.


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