Business of Well-being

Karen Gathercole - CHRS Case Study

The Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist (CHRS) certification provides human resources, insurance agents and brokers, and other health care and insurance professionals with the tools and information they need to ensure they are up to date on the latest rules and regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare. This knowledge provides designees with information that is invaluable to their company, and essential to career development.

One such CHRS graduate, Karen Gathercole, currently serves as Director of Human Resources for Florida Institute of Technology, a private science and engineering university in Melbourne, Florida. In December of 2013, Karen completed the eight modules and 100-question exam necessary to earn her CHRS designation.

"I wanted the knowledge to be able to guide my company," said Gathercole. "I was working at a defense contractor, and I knew the new health care regulations and changes were going to be significant. As a small company, they needed to have someone to guide them through the process.

I then transitioned to Florida Tech and - in higher education in particular - the ACA changed much of what we do. For example, the rules really changed for adjunct faculty and student workers who receive compensation with tuition rather than wages. I saw that, for the first time, human resources need an expert on these regulatory changes, and wanted to ensure that I was that expert."

The certification offered her more than just a certificate saying she was an expert; it gave her the ability to prove it.

"I saw that employees didn't know where to get real answers about the ACA," said Gathercole. "They only saw what was happening in the media. So one of the first things I did was create a 'Health Care Reform 101' class for the faculty and staff to ask questions. We actually recorded that class and it is still on our website. I also take time during open enrollment to explain what is changes are coming in the plan and why we made those changes. For example in 2015, it was all about 1094 and 1095 forms and how to receive and qualify for an exchange subsidy. I also have one on one meetings to address any questions they might have."

Some of these changes to the plan, like a strategic change to to avoid triggering the Cadillac Tax, were only possible because of her CHRS training. Other changes included an expanded wellness program, a revised system to track hours, policy changes to match part-time and seasonal employee regulations, new custom reports to feed into 1094s and 1095s. The certification gave her the authority to make these changes.

"The designation helped me transition from benefits manager to director of human resources. I wouldn't have a seat at the executives table without that certificate. It gives me the ability to show the C-Suite that I know what I'm talking about; this isn't something I read online, these are the real laws and changes that are coming."

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→