If you’re a broker who’s been trying to wrestle with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) “employer shared responsibility” requirement, you may have put the reps at your favorite professional employer organizations (PEOs) on speed dial six months ago.

If not, it might be time to think about spending more time talking to people like me.

The Obama administration has put off imposing the PPACA “play or pay” fines on large employers until 2015.

But decision makers at companies near the “large employer” cut-off have important questions to answer today:

  • Am I really subject to this law?
  • Should I offer benefits?
  • What impact will this have on the way I do business?

This is where the importance of a trusted advisor comes in. 

Historically, many decision makers worked with a broker to identify benefit plan offerings, negotiate plans and help roll the plans out. Most small to midsize companies chose to dedicate the resources to administer their benefits programs in-house, relying on their brokers for answers to basic compliance and reporting questions.

Fast forward. Times have changed.

The employers that are working with brokers – not just getting health insurance from a website – expect more: stronger customer service, more creativity, more hard financial data, and a formal benefits strategy. 

Many clients want their brokers to provide more complex compliance support, advice with divestitures and/or acquisition integration, control group analysis, vendor management, and improved benefits communication and decision support tools, in addition to day-to-day benefit plan administration. 

This can be good news for a broker – if the broker is positioned to deliver these additional services. If not, a PEO could help by offering health plans, or even private exchange programs that give workers the ability to choose from a menu of plans.

The benefits broker can focus on helping the client with high-level strategic matters, while the PEO can take over day-to-day plan management duties and handle the time-consuming new PPACA reporting requirements.

But, if you work with a PEO, the bottom line is that you get to apply more resources to the main reason employers use brokers – the human element of the relationship – and fewer to minutiae. 

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