For years financial institutions, including credit unions, have been buried in an endless barrage of regulatory and compliance to protect the integrity of its assets and provide financial security for members.
Then came March 23, 2010 – the date health care reform legislation became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) a/k/a “Obamacare” a/k/a health reform law. The passage signaled new regulatory and compliance requirements all employers must recognize and follow. Since its passing there has been clarifications and final guidance issued, resulting in over 4000 pages of legislation. The burden of employee benefit compliance now falls on employers and if found out of compliance the penalty is severe.
“We saw a legitimate need for employer assistance with PPACA” says Jim Fournier, compliance officer for Salus Group. “Our clients are vocal about their struggle to get their arms around Health Care Reform."
To that end, Salus Group developed, and implemented a client service product named; Compliance Oversight Program for Employers (COPE). Salus Group CEO Michael Brillati explains, “We discussed this internally over the past six months and determined that PPACA impacts all employers, regardless of size. I asked Jim to take the lead and develop a comprehensive program that reassures our clients they are conforming to all PPACA requirements. In the first 60 days of the roll-out 18 clients signed agreements and many more expressed interest and expect to implement in the near future.”
How Does It Work? COPE clients are provided health and welfare plan documents/Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) and required updates, DOL and PPACA notices sent to employees as required, COBRA compliance services (if over 20 employees), paperless enrollment and billing through SAM (Salus Administration Manager), plan SBCs (Summary of Benefits and Coverage) as required by PPACA and access to Salus Webinars on PPACA are all key components.
“COPE doesn’t just assist with PPACA compliance,” Fournier added. “It also provides assistance with DOL compliance issues that have been in place for decades. PPACA has mandated the DOL and IRS to increase audits of small employers for compliance.” Employers of all sizes have been required to have a formal plan document and SPD for their health and welfare plans. Most large employers have complied but many employers with less than 100 employees have looked past the requirements because it has not been enforced, until now.
“The cost of this program is insignificant when compared to penalties assessed for noncompliance” Brillati said. “Employers will be fined by the DOL $100 per employee per day they are out of compliance. That fine can add up very quickly for all credit unions, regardless if they offer benefits moving forward they will need to comply with the law.”