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Although middle-market employers will be responsible for complying with the auto-enrollment provision in the health care reform law, technology providers also will have a major role to play.
Doug Hammond, vice president of sales and business development at Arlington Heights, Ill.-based benefits administration software provider Benefit Express Services L.L.C., has put a premium on ease of use when it comes to employee benefit administration systems.
“One of the realities of the auto-enrollment provision is that it is going to drive plan participation,” Mr. Hammond said. “More plan participation on the employer side is going to drive more complexity and effort into the administration activities that (human resources) departments will have to take care of.”
The programming and related changes required to meet auto-enrollment requirements, slated to take effect in 2014 for companies with 200 or more employees, are no trivial undertaking for software providers, said Gary Kushner, president and CEO of Portage, Mich.-based human resources and employee benefits consultant Kushner & Co.
“In the mid-market, most employers are already on a benefits enrollment platform, but those systems will need to be re-engineered to handle a nondecision,” Mr. Kushner said. “Most of these systems were not designed with auto-enrollment in mind.”
Jessica Saperstein, division vice president of strategy and business development at employee benefits administration services provider Automatic Data Processing Inc., said the company has spent time on technology changes to help clients comply with the mandates in the health reform law.
“We have teams of people tasked with keeping up with the legislation and monitoring it.” Ms. Saperstein said. “The neat thing about having a cloud-based offering is that you can incorporate things rapidly and stay well ahead of the curve.”
Mr. Hammond said the cloud-based nature of his company's offering has the flexibility to make needed changes. “So as the new rules come out, we are able to meet them,” he said. “ACA (health reform law) has been business as normal for us.”
Sarah Rodehorst, director of government health programs at Brookfield, Wis.-based software developer Connecture Inc., said the changes required by the health care reform law mirror the pressures technology providers already are under with mobile and social technologies.
“We embrace change, accept it and put a plan in place,” Ms. Rodehorst said. “We treat health care reform as just one more part of our product development cycle. As change happens over time, we want our customers to have assurances that their solution will be compliant five years down the road.”
She expects the software to adapt to the increasingly complex benefits environment employers will have to navigate as self-service models and plan options proliferate under state health insurance exchanges.
“What is important for employers to understand is that the group enrollment process is unique from the individual process,” she said. “The technology needs to offer tools so that employers can understand the impact of their decisions.”
The nation's health care reform law requires companies with more than 200 full-time employees automatically to enroll their full-time workers in a health benefits plan starting in 2014, but uncertainty is delaying many employers' efforts.