Congratulations human resources. You have conquered some difficult challenges this year, including the first-ever filing of the new Affordable Care Act tax forms for the plan year 2015. When Obamacare mandated that all employers with 50 or more full-time employees offer affordable healthcare coverage to those employees, many employers who did not offer medical benefits to their employees were tasked with contracting with carriers and designing benefits plans and packages in order to comply with the ACA requirements.

Regardless of whether employers had or had not already offered employee health benefits, all employers were challenged with ensuring their plans met the minimum essential coverage and affordability requirements of the ACA.

See also: IRS delays ACA reporting deadline

Considerable attention and demands were placed on the human resources industry as HR professionals around the U.S. took on these strenuous, stressful duties.

However, with any new process, regulation or activity, new technology is created in order to automate and enhance the human capability and efficiency. A floodgate opened with several online “do-it-yourself” reporting platforms, downloadable applications, and even outsourcing vendors who claimed to provide complete ACA reporting, and yet, employers experienced frustration and revenue-loss as a result of using these new solutions.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

New Year’s is a time to look to the future but also a time of past reflection, and despite the uncertainty that remains with the state of the healthcare insurance industry, ACA compliance and reporting is still mandatory for the plan year 2016 — meaning that 1095-C forms are due to employees by March 2, 2017 (recently extended by the IRS); and 1094-C forms and the corresponding 1095-C forms must be filed with the IRS by February 28, 2017, if filing by paper, and March 31, 2017, if filing electronically.

Furthermore, as the IRS gets smarter and is able to penalize employers for not offering minimum essential coverage, for not offering affordable coverage, for not accurately reporting their offer of coverage, and many other scenarios, it becomes even more critical that employers implement a permanent ACA compliance and reporting solution within their IT infrastructure.

Fortunately for human resources, an integrated benefits administration system not only incorporates ACA compliance, reporting and variable hours tracking (watch-out HR, not all do), but also many other benefits and HR administration functionalities. Because ACA reporting regards employee benefits, eligibility and payroll data, a flexible, robust benefits administration solution is the ideal location to house all of this data.

Without an integrated, comprehensive benefits administration solution, HR are forced to access multiple systems, manually populate spreadsheets, and attempt to populate each individual employee’s 1095-C form with the correct code combination that reflects their offer of coverage and enrollment data for every month of the year.

It’s impossible — or, at a minimum — time-consuming, costly, error-prone and disorganized. As technology continues to shape the way businesses are operated and the way systems interact, it is necessary for human resources to leverage the innovations that enable them to make more of an impact in their company and in their employees’ lives.

HR’s New Year’s resolutions are to implement a comprehensive, multi-functional employee benefits administration solution, which enhances HR’s role and productivity.

Nearly every company or service provider today has business technologies that function to manage a specific business operation: customer relationship management, payroll, project management, development tracking, payment processing and many more. Employee benefits must also be managed and controlled by its own system, which specializes in employee benefits administration.

It is even more critical for HR today to have a benefits administration system that performs the highly regulated, data-driven ACA compliance monitoring and reporting.
Given the plethora of enrollment software, ACA reporting and outsourcing solutions in the market today, it is important for HR to ask a few key questions when shopping for a benefits administration solution.

  • Can the system configure multiple plans and multiple carriers?
  • What is the employee experience? What are the HR functionalities?
  • Does it integrate with carriers and payroll vendors?
  • Does it integrate ACA compliance and reporting?
  • Does it auto-generate ACA forms?
  • Does it file electronically with the IRS?
  • Does it integrate COBRA administration?
  • Will the vendor accept COBRA payments?
  • What customer support does the vendor offer?
  • Does the vendor offer telephonic assistance for my employees?
  • Does it retain employee transactional history?
  • Does it provide communications, billing, and reports?
  • Can it retain verification documents?

As HR rings in the new year, they must reflect on their past and identify their most difficult tasks and shop for a technology vendor that best supports their priorities, goals and New Year’s resolutions.

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Jessica Lynn Campbell

Jessica Lynn Campbell

Campbell is marketing executive and content writer for Web Benefits Design, a leading national employee benefits technology firm.