The Affordable Care Act has presented employers plenty of new challenges to grapple with when it comes to offering health care coverage, and, many say, has expanded the critical role of benefit advisers who heed the call.

Since the inception of the ACA, employers have begun to worry about increased Department of Labor audits, new taxes and fees, reporting requirements, and a host of fines levied for failure to provide coverage, or coverage that meets a minimum standard. Employers faced with these complexities are increasingly looking to their benefit brokers and advisers for solutions, a fact some believe has offered up job security for those benefit advisers willing and able to take on the ACA challenge.

“Our role has expanded tremendously. I don’t even know why we’re called brokers anymore. What are we brokering?” Beverly Beattie, CEO of the Miami, Fla.-based benefits firm Selden Beattie Benefit Advisors said during a pre-conference workshop at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Summit Monday in Boca Raton, Fla.

“If you have not gotten your PhD in the ACA at this point and learned how to be a trusted adviser, it’s time to consider new work,” she quipped. “Our role has become critically important as we learn to help employers navigate this law.”

She continued, “The wake-up-call is here. And the real wake-up-call will be here soon when the IRS expects reporting from employers.”

With that in mind, she said, her firm talks to their clients about three critical things:

1)       Whether they’re getting accurate information from a trusted and reliable source.

2)      If they understand the implications of the law and how it will impact their business today and in the future.

3)      How they are managing their reporting and tracking for ACA compliance and potential DOL audits.

The Department of Labor has indicated it plans to audit all employers by 2018, she said, and benefit advisers should be tailoring their services to meet employers’ concerns about ACA compliance and DOL audits.

When the DOL audit letter comes in the mail, she told workshop adviser attendees, “You are the No. 1 first place they will be looking for guidance.”

Services to offer

Advisers hoping to expand their business and stay relevant should be offering the following services:

  • An ACA impact assessment and DOL audit preparedness checklist. “You need to have a checklist,” she said, adding that her firm’s is 35 pages long. The checklist and assessment should be tailored by employer to consider whether they are self-insured, fully-insured, etc. “We go through that with every one of our clients. And we do work in tandem with a number of attorneys. This is a team effort.”
  • Development of compliance documents, including wrap documents and Section 125 documents.
  • HR consulting. Although her firm outsources HR consulting Beattie said, a lot of benefits practices are building significant HR consulting practices. “It’s a great way for you to expand your revenue, acquire AOR letters, and act as a gateway to keep competition out.”
  • Technology consulting. “You’re going to need to have technology consulting, whether you have an in-house expert or outsource it,” she said. “You need to offer it as a service.”

 

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