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Certifications Aid Navigation of the Affordable Care Act Maze

Finding a qualified partner in the employee benefits industry can help companies adjust to the ACA regulatory landscape. Accreditations are enhancing their knowledge.

The Affordable Care Act is reconfiguring the landscape of employer-sponsored benefits in America. With many key provisions of the law scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, millions of employers and benefits professionals will be plunged knee-deep into nuanced, often confusing legalese as they strive to ensure their companies are in compliance. Many of the penalties for noncompliance fall on the employer and can be up to $1,000 per day per employee.

To navigate the regulatory maze, businesses should seek out partners that have acquired expertise in the employee benefits industry through continuing education, certification and affiliations with industry groups actively involved in shaping and influencing health care law.

How should an employee go about choosing a benefits consultant, broker or agent?

First, review professional affiliations, looking for connections to industry groups and organizations that are active legislative advocates and are committed to industry education and professional development. This is a clear signal that they have access to up-to-the-minute knowledge and guidance relating to employer compliance regulations.

Second, assess the accrediting organization. One such group, the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation, or ECFC, offers a series of certification programs including Flexible Compensation Specialist, designed for professionals who are just beginning their careers in the flexible compensation field; Certified in Flexible Compensation, or CFC, which goes further into all aspects of flexible compensation and its legal requirements; and Advanced Certified in Flexible Compensation Instruction, or ACFCI, for those who seek a mastery of the more technical aspects of the industry and who have been assessed as ready to instruct their peers.

The ECFC’s mission is to preserve, protect and expand employer-sponsored, tax-advantaged benefits programs, and it works closely with key regulators and legislators to help shape and influence laws and regulations that impact these programs and health care.

Sue Sieger has more than 20 years’ experience in the employee benefit plan industry and currently serves as general manager of Benefits Design Group, Inc. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.