Compliance Penalties Hurt Employers’ Bottom Lines in 2014

By Melissa Winn

Although complying with the Affordable Care Act and other government regulations continues to be a top concern for midsize business owners, a relatively small percentage of them have strategies in place to manage their compliance and many say non-compliance has hit their bottom-line. For many, expert advice from benefit advisers could be a real solution.

A third of employers say they’ve experienced fines and penalties in the past year because of non-compliance with government regulations, according to new research from the ADP Research Institute.

For many employers, penalties occurred for infractions they may not have been aware of. More than three quarters of midsized business owners said they lack confidence that their organizations understand all the new ACA regulations.

“Midsized businesses spend a lot of time following and adopting rule changes in an attempt to avoid fines, yet they’re still often unaware when non-compliance fines occur,” says Anish Rajparia, president of major account services at ADP. “It’s no surprise that keeping up with the level and volume of government regulation was a top concern of more than half of the midsized business owners we polled.”

“As a small or midsize company you’d have to hire a small army to keep up with the changing laws,” says Steve Kapusta, division vice president for strategic partnerships for ADP. “And the more you spend on compliance, the more you take away from other aspects of your business.”

This is where benefit brokers can help out, he says.

“That role as the trusted adviser has started to go out of the scope of just brokering employee benefits and moved into [assisting with] compliance. In our experience we are seeing a lot of these employers turning to their advisers,” he says.

“We’re a small team of experts. As the payroll and benefits department, we’re not just dealing with California or with Oregon alone. We have to provide expertise on many different levels — to all of the managers to allow them to work better,” says Tatiana Cass, payroll and benefits manager for Diamond Parking, one of the businesses surveyed by ADP.

Brokers can differentiate themselves from others in the field by offering compliance solutions and partnerships with solution providers, says Kapusta.

Top Concerns

Top concerns for midsized business owners remain the cost of providing health care benefits, the ACA and the level of government regulations with which they must comply.

Sixty-nine percent of employers surveyed said health care benefit costs are a top concern, with 28% of those saying they are extremely concerned.

More than half of employers surveyed named the ACA as a top concern, with 29% of them saying they are extremely concerned. Still, less than a quarter of employers are confident that they have the tools and information needed to make the decisions about the best health and benefits strategies for their companies.

More business owners now than in the past, however, are trying to mitigate increased health care costs, but their lack of understanding of the ACA is often a deterrent to success, the study finds.

“Perhaps as a result of their lack of confidence and understanding of the changes brought about by the ACA, midsized business owners often revert to the tactics of smaller business. Only half of them, for example, said that they are offering or will offer wellness programs to employees as a result of the ACA,” the ADP report states. “And just over half say that their company has put together a plan to help control or lower the cost of providing medical insurance to employees.”

When they are exploring changes to benefits strategies, most business owners said they don’t know how they will administer the changes. Four out of five said they are still planning to handle it in house, the same way smaller businesses do, again highlighting a significant need for adviser expertise.

Reprinted from Employee Benefit News

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