See All Your ACA Options With Your Eyes Open.

A Real Life Story of Accepting ACA Changes for a Small Business

The ACA landscape is “shifting sands,” a phrase we coined a couple years ago as we started designing the “BenStaff ACA Decoder“. I’d expect by now everyone understands ACA like we do. Sadly, this is a long way from true. We’re troubled that so few owners are taking advantage of options but then, there is so much “shifting sands” no one who does this part time should be expected to “get it” fast. There is a thread of continuous change, consider this example; the government just announced that open enrollment that ended 2/15 is open still through 4/15. You can still enroll so don’t miss out. See my post, or talk to one of the agents we like to make sure you don’t miss this NEW open enrollment.

Today begins a Story

ACA has changed the world of benefits. We're using our Decoder everyday to help employers meet the challenge.
ACA has changed the world of benefits. We’re using our Decoder everyday to help employers meet the challenge.

Today, I wanted to begin telling a real life story about a family and small business. Of course, names have been changed to protect the innocent (a bit of a Dragnet reference). The reason for it to be a multi-part story, is to allow me to keep tackling the days work. If you follow the story you will learn what’s really happening in the employee benefit world and how it affects you, or could affect you.

It would take too long to write the entire story in one sitting and likely, you wouldn’t have time to read it. If I understand my audience, your interests are different than your neighbor (in viewing anyway). My interest in telling this story is the circumstances cover most every variation for you. Undoubtedly, in this story, there’s something in it for everyone. Owners will appreciate it and also will their HR and Finance staff plus any employee of any employer plus individuals looking for coverage. This story is about any typical business trying under the new law to provide coverage. It should help us collectively understand what ACA means in many different ways.

Part I – a Small Business Looking to Do Better

The story starts with a business who engaged us for our Decoder because they asked the simple question, “we know it’s different than it use to be, and we perceive we could do better but we don’t know how to make the right decision.” This is the question that we answer most of the time. So, here’s a brief background for the story. This is an employer with 18 employees many of whom are part time. We agreed to complete an ACA Decoder for them. We delivered the Decoder to the owners (2 of them) and started the conversation about which of the 3 options was best for them to pursue.

No two employers are the same and no two employers can solve the problems the same. No matter the employer size there are issues employers are facing. There are more than 20 options available to employers. And most employers are facing today’s rate increases with the same tools and intellect as they did last year, or the year before that and this is not serving them well. It’s why no matter your best efforts, you will find employers who use the Decoder do so with added confidence. As you will see with the story as it unfolds over the next few days.

This employer had an agent who was capable by any measure but not attentive to the employers needs. Of course, we established a connection with the current agent by encouraging them to participate with the completion of the Decoder. They objected to the idea and explained they would not be participating. This is so unfortunate, why would an agent not want to work with BenStaff or me to help a customer make a better decision and implement change? This kind of reception by the agent community really doesn’t make sense but we offered introductions to local agents who we knew who would work with us to develop the Decoder. The new agent worked with us to develop options, added a new customer and delivered the services I told the customer they should expect.

Too bad for the old agent but as you will see, the story ends happily every after in the end, you will see how we helped the employer navigate the ACA shifting sands by digging in and getting it done.

I’ll post Part II in the next day or so. Stay tuned.

How is it financial firm doesn’t understand it’s own fees?

It is remarkable that a financial institution like Citigroup is being sued by it’s own employees, who should have known they had fees included in their own 401k’s. How is it that employees who build these plans for use by small business accepted the practice of excessive fees in their customers plans.

Where was the outcry, education to their own customers?

Nearly seven years after their awsuit was filed, the plaintiffs in a “self-dealing” case against Citigroup will be allowed to move ahead with their claims.

On Sept. 30, U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein denied Citigroup’s motion for summary judgment, which would have thrown the case out of court based on Citigroup’s assertion that the statute of limitations had passed.

The suit, brought by former Citigroup employees Marya Leber and Sara Kennedy, is one of a number of excessive-fee cases filed in recent years.

It alleges that Citigroup breached its fiduciary duty by including its own fund options, and those of its affiliates, in the company’s 401(k) plan despite having higher fees than competing funds of equal

Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that Citigroup’s funds “charged higher fees than those charged by comparable Vanguard funds— in some instances fees that were more than 200 percent higher than those of comparable funds.”

Court documents show that in 2003 Citigroup’s investment committee eliminated 10 unaffiliated funds and added the new funds, including three of Citigroup’s own options. Participant assets were then automatically transferred to the new or remaining funds, four of which were Citigroup’s own or Citigroup-affiliated.

Citigroup’s motion to dismiss the case was rooted in the claim that the plaintiffs were aware of both the affiliated status of

the funds in question and their fees more than three years prior to the suit’s filing.

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, if plaintiffs have “actual knowledge of the breach,” then they must

bring their claim to court within three years of acquiring that knowledge.

Stein wrote that the plaintiffs did not have “actual knowledge,” as Citigroup claimed, because Citigroup failed to prove that

the plaintiffs were given data on the fees of comparable funds.

In denying the motion, Stein said Citigroup had “not even attempted to offer evidence that plaintiffs possessed the fee data

“Citigroup employees could have earned millions more for their retirement if Citigroup had followed the law,” alleged Greg

The plaintiffs are expected to ask the court to certify theirs as a class-action claim.

Benefits Pro; link:

BenStaff selected for the next Goldman Sachs Detroit small business program

This is an intense 4 month, executive MBA type program for small business entrepreneurs. BenStaff was selected to participate as a member of the next class.

Don Watza, Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses cohort III
Don Watza, Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses cohort III

This was an event celebrating 64 small business owners who graduated from the first 2 programs.

Don at the graduation day with many, many dignitaries. Amazing opportunity to kick it up a notch. Among those present for the festivities were Governor Snyder, Warren Buffet, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Morning Joe show from MSNBC.

Deb Habel, fraternity brother and WSU faculty attended the event with us.

What a priveledge to be in such company as 64 small business owners and dignitaries celebrating their hard work, grit and determination. Well done to the class of 64.

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett at Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business graduation 9-18-14 in Detroit

Warren Buffett gave the commencement address stating that he’s never given a university commencement but was honored to be present for this event.

BenStaff is accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Detroit Cohort III

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.37.39 AMThe Big News today is our acceptance into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small business Detroit program.  This is an opportunity that will propel BenStaff forward exponentially. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business campaign selected BenStaff and the team for the 4 month intensive training program beginning 10/10/14.

This is a 4 month intensive training program that prepares small business owners for achieving growth. They have said it is an intense amount of school work all directed at the business.

Congratulate my team for their hard work and dedication that has earned us this distinction.

Here are links to learn more about the Goldman Sachs 10k Small Business education program.

Goldman Sachs National initiative video

Goldman Sachs – Detroit

Babson College Curriculum

Benefit Analyst – BenStaff, Inc. |

BenStaff is helping owners understand reform, the benefit analyst position will help create our custom booklets that identify savings for employers.

“The benefit analyst will lead financial production of our popular “Employer Obamacare ACA Decoder” presented to employer organizations and their agents. Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 7.11.04 PMThis is a newly created position necessary to help us meet demand for the Decoder. The lead benefit analyst will work as part of a team to create a professionally produced and customized book customized for each client.”

Benefit Analyst – BenStaff, Inc. |