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Paperless Benefits Administration

Author: Paul Mead
Contributed by Baker, Thomsen Associates


World Wide Web applications are being utilized to enhance and simplify every area of business, and the administration of employee benefits is not immune to this innovation. Web sites and "intranets" have been designed to achieve a paperless benefits administration. Internet based HR products that harness the power of the World Wide Web, enabling small and mid-size companies to streamline HR communications, comply electronically with pertinent legislation, and provide employees accurate, easy-to-access benefits information. From a home PC, workstation, or kiosk, employees access health and welfare plan summaries, member service contacts, and Summary Plan Descriptions (SPD's) satisfying Federal electronic disclosure and reporting safe harbors. Links to carrier web sites provide plan members exciting interactive features such as on-line enrollment, appointment scheduling, and prescription refills.

The Internet is perfectly suited to alleviate the complexity of HR management and administration. Twenty years ago an employee benefits broker/consultant's task was singular - to negotiate with a host of carriers for the best benefit package cost. Today, with only a handful of providers offering full nationwide coverages, the brokerage process is only a minor portion of a firm's responsibilities. The challenge for employee benefits firms now is to accomplish a host of plan design, service, compliance, and communications tasks. Internet applications make it possible to simplify and in some cases eliminate these concerns, therefore allowing firms to conserve client resources.

BTA's founder, Managing Director David Thomsen notes, "The Internet is changing the way in which people are managed. Larger firms are scrapping their internal HR software systems and going paperless via the Internet. At the same time, employee benefits are becoming tremendously complex. Congress now allows states to pass benefit laws that supersede ERISA with compliance and liability exposure. The Internet does it all: it is a platform for worldwide communication, allows the collection and transfer of information, and has portals of entry from every house, school, and business in the Country. It reduces administration costs, it is a universal solution for communication, and it saves time for the corporate manager. The Internet may not be the future for everything, but it clearly is the future for benefits administration."

An effective Internet-based benefits administration system is a culmination of two interactive web sites, an HR Intranet administrative site and an employee benefits Internet site. Easy-to-use interfaces within the HR Intranet component make it simple for human resources personnel to post office news, display company forms, answer frequently asked questions, and maintain census files designed to ensure site confidentiality (with the same encryption used in on-line banking).

Stacks of quickly out-dated provider directories and costly paper communications are things of the past. Use of the World Wide Web can provide all the technology an organization needs to achieve paperless benefits administration, without in-house web programmers or a costly technical support staff. Designed for small and medium sized firms, systems can be implemented within only a few days.

Once an HR Intranet site has been established, a customized employee benefits site can be developed. Employees view user-specific benefits information by entering a company ID, and user name and/or password. The site then guides users through plan summaries with carrier-specific links to features such as online enrollment, provider directories, and retirement calculators. Individual members may also view and download electronic documentation such as carrier-provided SPD's, SMM's, and enrollment forms. These easy-to-use, employee friendly features conserve your organization's time and resources by reducing calls related to routine benefits questions. Further efficiency can be achieved by enabling ERISA compliance through safe harbor reporting.


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