Moving at the speed of data: Electronic Data Transfer

More and more, our clients (and yours) are utilizing many different services to reduce the redundancy of communicating employee benefits information to multiple vendors (medical, dental and vision carriers, COBRA administrators, etc.).  As a result, fewer and fewer clients are coming to our secure website to enroll, make changes to and terminate employees – they submit data directly to an external source who distributes the information.

As of the writing of this blog article, we receive data feeds from these sources:

  1. Employee Navigator
  2. BerniePortal
  3. ADP (the payroll company)
  4. Principal
  5. Peoplestrategy
  6. Ultimate Software
  7. Namely

Some call them “Ben-Admin” systems while others are referred to as HRIS companies. While the correct label and/or differences of each escapes me, every week another client calls me asking, “Can you accept electronic data feeds from my (fill in the blank) company?” As yet, the answer has been “yes” in all cases because most COBRA/FSA/HRA/HSA/Transit administrators require the same data. But there are some tricky parts:

  1. Communicating the required Health FSA contribution/reimbursement amounts if we do not administer the Health FSA in order to calculate the COBRA premium; the same is true of HRA reimbursements. 
  2. Some electronic data feeds do not include stand-alone Employee Assistance Plans (EAP) or telehealth benefits, while others include benefit categories more common to the East Coast and not found in the Northwest where our client base is located.

Then there is just the organizational issues. Some companies want to know what format/order I want the data to display in while others tell me what format/order they will give it to us. Whatever the challenges, I find this new way of receiving data refreshing and complete. It solves the age-old problem of having a client email partial information and having to request more several times until we have complete information to process a COBRA notice. It’s also nice to get one file for multiple clients.

The bottom line, if you or your clients have a source to transmit data electronically, please reach out to me to discuss what centralized benefit system you, or your clients, are using. We may not be the big box store TPA, but we’re the boutique that can receive electronic data feeds just like the big guys – helping to streamline workflow for everyone.

p.s. – One last note with respect to my tricky issue #1 above. This issue is easily resolved when we are the administrator for both a company’s COBRA AND other alphabet soup programs. Better coordination, fewer questions and errors. Keep that in mind when talking to your clients this renewal season.



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