The COVID-19 pandemic has districts facing potentially deep budget cuts. MESSA can ease the pain by reducing costs for benefits administration while providing business services that go above and beyond what districts have come to expect as standard.

And they’re available at no extra cost.

“Health benefits administration is costly and time consuming,” says Kim Toman, director of MESSA Group Services. “With districts facing budget cuts, MESSA can offer some financial relief, while also freeing up district staff to focus on other priorities.”

MESSA provides a unique suite of free business services available through a robust online benefits website that can save districts considerable time and money on the cost of administering health benefits.

Another powerhouse service MESSA offers is its highly trained staff of benefits experts. MESSA’s Group Services team works directly with school business offices to help administer health benefits, and they’re available by phone, email and online chat. MESSA’s Field Services team is available to help business offices and their employees navigate the complex world of health benefits.

When Battle Creek Public Schools transitioned all of its benefits administration to MESSA, the district realized “substantial savings,” says Pat McCann, human resources manager for BCPS. Just as important to the HR team at BCPS, is the value that MESSA’s business services have brought.

“The value that MESSA brings has been tremendous,” says Cheryl Johnson, BCPS chief HR officer. “The service model has been amazing.”

Johnson worked with MESSA Field Representative Tara Wilbur while deciding whether to make the move to MESSA for benefits administration.

“The ability to collaborate with people who see the art of the possible is so important; Johnson says. “We would have these crazy ideas, and Tara and her team would just run with it. We have not had that experience in this district before.”

BCPS started its transition to MESSA in September, and all the pieces were in place for a November open enrollment.

“At MESSA, we listen to what our districts say they need, and we work to make it happen,” says MESSA Field Services Director Tanya Pratt. “We know that districts constantly have to find ways to save — now more than ever — and we do everything we can to help them find the savings while providing the highest level of service.”

MESSA’s business services were carefully crafted based on feedback from partner districts.

“We looked at where our business partners in districts told us they were struggling, and we developed solutions to those challenges,” Toman says. “We launched these business services last year, and they’ve taken on a whole new importance given the struggles our state and schools are facing.”

Here’s a snapshot of what MESSA provides:

MESSA can handle all your COBRA needs from start to finish. When your employees become eligible, we provide them with a COBRA election notice, process their enrollment, collect payment and remit funds back to you. We also process COBRA termination when the employee is no longer eligible or upon their request.

FMLA Administration
MESSA’s FMLA administrator starts working for you the moment your employee notifies you they intend to take FMLA leave. We take much of the complex administration and compliance work off your plate, and we take on every step until your employee returns to work.

ACA Reporting
Our online benefits website will compile ACA compliance data to assist you in generating your annual 1095-C employee forms. You can distribute them to your employees or have MESSA do it for you. Completed 1095-C and 1094-C forms can be electronically transmitted to the IRS through the online benefits website.

Open Enrollment Administration
MESSA’s open enrollment administration provides everything you need to complete open enrollment. This service can be customized to provide the level of support you want; you can maintain control over all aspects of open enrollment or you can let MESSA handle it all. Our new Ask Emma tool features an animated virtual assistant that provides personalized walk-throughs for employees who need guidance, explainer bubbles for those who need just a little help, and a calculator and estimate breakdown for employees who want to know every detail.

Additionally, MESSA can integrate cafeteria plan options into your online benefits website, perform dependent audits and more. MESSA’s online services are also equipped with straightforward enrollment tools, easy-to-read dashboards, customizable reports, mass email options and more, providing solutions to the challenges district administrators face every day. Employees can easily complete their new enrollee or open enrollment forms, update their personal information and submit “life event” changes.

Saline Area Schools benefits coordinator Jen Barnard took a detailed look at what her district was previously paying another firm for the services they were receiving, and she found the value lacking. Simply put: “We weren’t getting the value we needed” from the previous company, she says.

One example she gave was the cost breakdown for COBRA administration through a third-party administrator vs. the experience with MESSA, where there is no additional fee.

The district paid a set amount per employee per month to the TPA, plus a $25 fee for the TPA to create a COBRA packet, plus a charge of $5 to generate a termination notice, plus additional fees for a la carte items. All the fees really added up.

“With MESSA, I term the employee in (our benefits website) and MESSA kicks out the COBRA packet,” Barnard says.

“It’s nice to know that I have a team to work with,” Barnard says. “They don’t physically work in Saline with me, they are a part of our team. I can send them a message and, within minutes, I have a response back.”

That’s the personal service MESSA prides itself on.

“MESSA has a commitment to providing our members with exceptional health benefits and unmatched personal service, and that extends to our partners in school business offices,” Toman says. “Our Group Services staff partners directly with the staff working in school business offices to make sure you can stretch every penny as far as possible. We know that there are hard cuts coming down, and we are here to help districts weather the storm.”

Johnson, McCann and Barnard all encourage district leaders to take a hard look into what they’re paying to TPAs to be sure they’re getting the services those precious dollars are paying for, knowing that every dollar will have to be stretched as far as possible this coming school year.

“With COVID-19, not having a crystal ball, thank God that we do have MESSA for our BCPS family,” Johnson says. “Like any other person in this country, we’re experiencing our own challenges. We’re very appreciative of MESSA.”

How can MESSA help your district? To talk with a MESSA benefits expert about how to save on your benefits strategy, call 888.888.4167, ext. 5517.