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ALCO Stores finds provider to help with automated health benefits enrollment


ALCO Stores Inc. changed benefit administration outsourcing providers this year to help it meet Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requirements that the chain of more than 200 stores provide automated enrollment to employees and extend benefits to those working 30 or more hours per week.

As a retailer, Coppell, Texas-based ALCO Stores has a large variable-hour workforce. Benefitfocus Inc.'s HR InTouch Marketplace, used in conjunction with the ACA Management Platform from Equifax Workforce Solutions, gave ALCO the tools it needed to measure and track the eligibility of its workers as required by ACA's employer mandate, Shatana Allen, director of human resources at ALCO Stores, said in statement.

“This was the comprehensive solution we needed to improve employee engagement and be more strategic in our benefits administration,” she said. “We are excited to roll this out starting with open enrollment for our variable-hour workers in November.”

Such provider switching has surged in the past several years, mostly in response to ACA, according to a report by Everest Global Inc., a Dallas-based advisory and research firm.

“Buyers felt threatened from compliance-related issues and hence switched service providers to avoid severe penalties,” according to the report. Moreover, “over the last few years, the pricing for (benefits administration outsourcing) has declined and buyers either renegotiate the existing contracts or switch providers to get more value for the money spent.”

Though Everest Global expects such switching to decline this year from its peak in 2012-2013, it likely will remain higher “due to the market being more dynamic and difficult in terms of more complex requirements” because of ACA, Arkadev Basak, practice director at Everest Global, said in an email response to questions from Business Insurance.