Implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is among the major forces that's also creating a full employment act for Ruthann Laswick, a veteran with more than 35 years in the profession. She operates Blue Water Benefits Consulting, LLC based in Scottsdale, Ariz., to help her clients achieve compliance with these and other regulations and legislation.
Laswick, an active member of the NAHU Legislative Council and the vice chair of the Professional Development Committee, recently spoke to EBA regarding current resources, activities and tasks ahead.
What led you into compliance consulting as a business segment?
I've been on all sides of the industry. I've owned an agency, and I've been a comp and benefits director for an international firm, so I have experienced European benefits as well. I have worked with an alphabet consulting house as a consultant, and hit this thing on every side of it.
But my business is designed to be purely compliance consulting. I don't get involved in products, except to give some opinions.
What I've found over the last couple of years in speaking on health care reform is that most employers are not in compliance. Not because they don't want to be, but because they don't understand what they have to do to be in compliance. I saw a niche.
Employers don't know what they don't know. Does that trace to a lack of resources?
Years ago our insurance carriers sometimes took a greater step toward helping with compliance than they do today, and as they backed away nobody filled in the holes. Very few employers have a benefit plan document, which we saw when the medical loss ratio rebates came out just recently.
If you have a plan document, it will give, much like the Summary of Benefits and Coverage, the open enrollments on/after. But very few people have that, and they just wing it until the month before.
Are employee benefit brokers positioned to help clients with their compliance tasks, or are they already too busy?
Unfortunately, brokers are being asked to take on more responsibilities beyond compliance. They're being asked human resources questions all the time. Yes, the brokers are too busy and it's not their specialty.
Their specialty is going to market and being able to provide the best possible product to meet the clients' needs. At my business I work with a few direct clients, but the majority are agencies that have partnered with me.
What are some of the offerings that resonate well and provide a lot of help to clients?
One of the popular services right now is health care reform planning, which can be as simple as having a general discussion, or as involved as taking their current census, their current plan design and demographics, and projecting their costs in 2014.
HIPAA training is the second most popular among my clients. This is because the Office for Civil Rights started auditing for HIPAA in March, and I can almost tell you the week they started because I got 10 phone calls that week.
What directions do you see compliance taking over the next five to10 years?
I think the employers will become more compliant. They're more sophisticated than most people recognize. I do think the consulting services will be a greater part of what everyone does. Part of it is you cannot simply depend on the human resources departments to do everything.
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