The Last Word: Tech and Benefits: No Longer Strange Bedfellows

By Rick Bell

Oct. 9, 2014

If there’s one thing that’s catching my attention at the HR Technology show this week is the growing importance of benefits among tech companies.

This isn’t just a passing fad, either. Companies like Benefitfocus, bswift, Castlight Health and Virgin Pulse have a healthy presence (yes, pun intended) at this week’s conference. What is a surprise is that more tech-benefits companies like Change Healthcare aren’t here too. But I’m sure as the benefits component integrates on the tech front with all things people management, that will change, too. (Castlight, by the way, sponsored a Lyle Lovett  concert on Oct. 8. Well played, Castlight; very cool.)

Stalwart ADP also is making a major push into Affordable Care Act compliance. The Roseland, New Jersey-based payroll and HR firm unveiled ADP Health Compliance, which is pretty self-explanatory. What I found interesting is which companies are more advanced in understanding the murky ACA compliance regulations.

Michelle Northey of ADP told me that companies in hospitality, food service and retail possess a deeper level of ACA understanding than companies in, say, the financial industry. Essentially, companies with high turnover, high variable hour workforces

Why? Retail and hospitality have large part-time employee rosters, which is a big sticking point with compliance. Financial services' employee bases are largely full time, so they remain at “1.0 vs. 2.0” in their ACA compliance knowledge, Northey said when we chatted yesterday morning.

And, she added, it’s interesting how decision-making is unfolding among executives. It’s the CFOs and CHROs who are calling the strategic shots, while benefits managers are executing their orders. And, IT is playing an increasingly important role with the capture of data needed for health care reform compliance. I also think that socialization of wellness packages as traditional health care benefits integrate with technology is trending as well.

As we approach the ACA’s fifth anniversary — hard to believe it has been five years already — technology and benefits are only going to grow closer together.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. For comments or questions email

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