Springtime not only brings rain showers and blooming flowers, but also starts renewal season for employee benefit programs. It’s during this critical time that you’re in the favorable position to review how your plans have operated, to seek out different options from vendors and carriers, and to choose the best plans for you, your employees, and/or clients in the coming year. Requests for proposals (RFP) are a necessary part of renewal season and can serve as an opportunity to ensure that you’re getting the best use of your plans’ data.
In my last blog, HR and CFOs -Monitoring Plan Performance Is Not Limited to Retirement Plans, I discussed the importance of being able to access and use your benefit plans’ data. The essential take away is that you cannot monitor the operation of your employee benefit plans, as required by ERISA, unless you have access to and use of your data. Vendors’ concerns about privacy and costs of sharing your data; however, often create obstacles that can hinder getting to your data—by limiting access, imposing restrictions on use and/or charging high fees to send and receive data. Renewal season gives you an opportunity to mitigate and remove some of these obstacles.
While it would be easy to just stay with your current vendors and providers (and by implication any existing limits on data), you should use renewal season to revisit and update your RFPs and ensure that your rights to access and use data generated by your plans are clearly stated.
The following checklist outlines what provisions on data should be included in your RFPs for the coming year:
- Language detailing the importance of transparency and your ownership rights of data generated by your plan(s).
- Provisions establishing and requiring full access and usage of data generated by your plan(s).
- Sections to ensure that there are no costs to set up data feeds to access and use your data.
- Requirement that your rights to your data extend to advisors or vendors who are working with your data on your behalf.
- Ensuring administrative services only agreements or other service/plan agreements incorporate the above data provisions.
Review the vendor responses carefully to see if they answered the questions.
- If they state that they have fiduciary responsibility and will not provide transparency, that should be a red flag. You’re still responsible for ensuring plan funds are used in the best interest of your plan members.
- If they charge you for data transfers to advisors and other vendors working with your data on your behalf, make sure the fees are not excessive, which may violate HIPAA. Don’t be afraid to make data ownership rights a negotiating point.
By clearly establishing in RFPs your ownership rights and use of plan data generated by you, your employees and/or clients, you can avoid future headaches when trying to monitor how well your plans are operating. Let this spring be a chance to revisit and update RFPs so that your data rights are clearly stated and protected.