What Do They Look Like?
Congratulations to all who persevered through the 2015 Reporting Year for Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance!
Also, a huge pat on the back to those who diligently worked to ensure all their clients met the IRS deadlines for 1095 and 1094 reporting. As Thomas Edison shared:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Most certainly this first season produced some successful ACA compliance solution providers and some whose “greatest weakness” perhaps was the failure to try “just one more time.”
ACA compliance software providers who provided a “solution” were in two positions: 1) those who provided assistance directly to the end-user or 2) those who provided an inclusive ACA software solution to partners who, in turn, provided their clients a comprehensive suite of services. I believe those ACA compliance providers who partnered in providing a software solution offered more reliable toolsets and fared better in the marketplace.
Our role with our ACA-Track™ partners at PSST this year provided several insights. Clients of payroll vendors are discovering, that while convenient, these companies are not always well equipped to provide detail and accurate ACA compliance guidance. Clients with outside ACA vendors may struggle with their solution providers, who often are not familiar with each employer’s unique circumstances, their employees and the nuances associated with this new reporting requirement.
In our experience, however, what worked extremely well was the combination of a comprehensive seamless ACA compliance and reporting software working hand-in-hand with the local benefit provider – a combination that proved to be a successful solution for our partners as well as their clients (with the partner retaining complete account management.)
Foundational to that combination, however, is finding an ACA solution provider who empowers the partner (TPA, broker, CPA, etc.) to maintain a direct relationship with their clients. With some ACA solution vendors comes the threat of the partner being displaced as the benefits provider.
Additionally, it’s a partnership between a provider of reliable, well-supported software that can handle various data sets and a trusted benefit provider — such as a third party administrator, benefits broker, CPA, trusted benefits advisor, etc.
Successful ACA Partnership Components
- A knowledgeable, dependable relationship has already been established between the employer and their benefits provider.
- The comprehensive ACA compliance solution is supported directly by local benefit expertise supported by an easy-to-use, electronic, intelligent, seamless method of collecting data from the HRIS, payroll, and benefits enrollment platforms into a comprehensive ACA “track-monitor-report” solution.
- The selected software solution has the capability to diagnose data issues analytically. This best happens BEFORE the data is moved into the compliance module, allowing the user to find, fix and transport data effortlessly.
- The partner has access to a single-sign-on system with secure access to their employer’s data. This single-sign-on allows for switching between the databases — for monitoring and for reporting.
- The software provider must furnish dedicated account representatives accessible directly by the partner. The software provider should allow the partner to focus on the client, while the software provider focuses on the partner’s needs. When supporting many employers, it is imperative that immediate and ongoing communication occurs between the partner and the software provider.
- Lastly, the software solution — first and foremost — stores all personally identifiable information (PII) in an encrypted database, with secure SLL transmission between all points within the system. The software solution should be housed in a secured facility that provides the highest levels of physical and electronic security, off-site backup and redundant data center access. All parties should have SOC compliance or be pursuing SOC certification.
Other Critical Partner Considerations
Of course, successful partners operate on volume-discounted pricing, thereby permitting the partners to be compensated properly for their client-facing efforts.
The ideal software vendor also provides for data to be taken in from the employer’s databases into a dashboard, eliminating the arduous tasks of exporting data, formatting data and combining data. The ACA-Track Client Data Launchpad and the Client Data Services tools are excellent examples of how to eliminate these tedious and error-prone processes.
And, errors will happen; however, a partnership with a well-supported, client-focused ACA software provider that knows how to handle these disparities and communicate solutions is invaluable to saving time and reducing risk. With so many Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), and even Employer Identification Number (EIN) errors, the ability to identify these errors and correct before the IRS submission is an imperative enhancement for the 2016 reporting session.
Additionally, a successful software solution provider should be constantly enhancing the product to empower partners to address their clients’ concerns, as well as their data issues, quickly and efficiently.
There is a difference between ACA compliance software vendors, and finding a vendor who embraces, encourages and values the client relationship may just be the most important vendor selection criteria. Some business values never change in any partnership. Honesty and integrity in transactions between the partner, the client, and the third-party administrator with its robust software solution are invaluable and critical to long-term growth.
Check out this ACA informational webinar, “HOT TOPICS for 2016 Affordable Care Act Reporting.” Click here for more information and registration.