We may be in 2022, but if you made it through 2021, give yourself a pat on the back
Whether you work as a broker, a member of a human resources benefits team or an employee at a benefits administration firm, we all know that the benefits field is both challenging and ever changing. We work hard every day to satisfy our constituents who range from clients, members and employees. And every year things get more hectic and the pace picks up.
With that said, 2021 turned out to be an exceptionally convoluted and complex year in the benefits world. We saw more change in 2021 than we may have experienced in the last 5 years, maybe the last 10 years. Let me just list off the top of my head some of the changes we experienced in 2021:
- Unlimited FSA carryover or grace period for FSA Plans
- Post termination health FSA eligibility
- Dependent care age eligibility increase to 14
- Option to revoke a Health FSA election
- Dependent care contribution limit increase
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) becomes FSA eligible
- COBRA ARPA subsidies
- Extended COBRA deadline extensions calculated on a member-by-member basis
These all needed to be communicated and operationalized in a timely and effective manner. Some were well received like the unlimited FSA carryover and actually provided a tangible benefit to members. Some were traps, such as the increase in the dependent care limit if you were already failing non-discrimination testing. Some were just downright off the charts – the COBRA subsidy. We were given just weeks’ notice on something that would have required months of preparation in order to get right. We were provided guidance weeks after the start of the subsidy only to hope that we didn’t need to redo any work. And we were tasked with trying to explain to our clients and members who qualified for the subsidy and who didn’t. Benefit administration firms attempted to collect millions in employer COBRA subsidies from clients who had much more important things to do than worry about paying COBRA subsidies, yet alone how to recoup them.
But the point here is to take time to look at the list above and reflect on just how much we had to tackle in 2021. All on top of what we already deal with through our normal course of business. As humans, we are constantly looking forward to what comes next and don’t often take the time to look back and reflect on what we accomplished. So in the process of thinking about 2022, please don’t forget to take a minute to pat yourself on the back. Because you made it through 2021, and for us in the benefits field, that was no easy feat.
Strategic Partnerships Manager, Lifetime Benefit Solutions
Scott Ehrlinger has more than 20 years’ experience with benefit administrative services and has been with LBS since 2001. He also studied accounting at SUNY Geneseo and completed his MBA at Rochester Institute of Technology. Scott has held roles within the organization that include Vice President of Finance, Vice President of Ancillary Operations and Retirement Plan Consultant. In his current role with LBS, Scott services as the liaison between LBS and its current clients as well as future prospects. His extensive knowledge of the organization’s operational processes ensures a smooth implementation and provides a consultative approach to clients as well as internal client service.