Big data is an increasingly important tool for ACA compliance as the government's complex health care reform continues to roll out. Organizations with compliance gaps will not only face frustration and steep penalties, but also stress their limited IT and human resource capacities. The ACA has transformed what was once an annual enrollment event into an extensive, ongoing process of collecting, aggregating and reporting data for each employee.
Big data for ACA compliance extends beyond reporting and includes using data to improve efficiency in the realm of health care benefits.
In a landscape of increasing complexity, where managing and gaining relevant insights from your data has never been more important for compliance, little wonder why many companies are looking to partner with third-party vendors who can supply the technical know-how and regulatory expertise necessary to meet the demands of the ACA..
Scrambling to Comply
According to a survey of midsized businesses, less than half of business leaders surveyed feel confident their companies understand the requirements of the ACA. Understanding what is required for compliance is, of course, the first step.
The ACA is being implemented over several years, and the requirements will continue to ramp up. But a gradual ACA implementation doesn't necessarily mean organizations are adequately prepared.
ACA compliance demands coordination and aggregation of employee- and health-related data across multiple departments. As the Healthcare Trends Institute notes, organizations are "juggling disparate data sources to manage reporting (if they're managing it at all). Some information they're required to compile comes from their HR, finance and payroll departments, while their insurance carrier tracks other information."
Meeting the Coming Challenges
1. Understand ACA requirements. Organizations must stay ahead of the curve by tracking the roll-out of the ACA and understanding how the changing requirements will impact their compliance efforts. Having people and systems already in place and able to adapt to ACA changes will become a top priority. The problem, of course, is that there's a scarcity of ACA capability and know-how on the market, and an increasing demand for more as the ACA's implementation continues apace.
2. Prepare the way for coordination. The ACA is a driver of systems integration. The cost of having compliance-related employee and health data in different silos has never been higher. Organizations will need to develop the capacity to translate the evolving requirements of the ACA into appropriate changes in their systems. The ACA will require that you develop the know-how in house, in terms of people and systems, or else you partner with a third-party vendor to provide the support you need to manage your ACA compliance. Challenges like data security will continue to be a top priority as you enable data aggregation and sharing.
3. Investments will be needed. Since ACA compliance requires organizations to cut across departments and systems, it necessitates a strong commitment from leadership to make that coordination process happen. It will take money and time, not to mention changes in the way you communicate.
Big Data will be an important tool for ACA compliance. The ability to manage and gain insights from the data will never be better stress-tested than during your ongoing efforts to comply with the federal health care reforms. Can ACA compliance become a major distraction from your core business operations? The answer depends on how well you manage your compliance.