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The Phia Group's 1st Quarter 2019 Newsletter

Phone: 781-535-5600 |

The Book of Russo:
From the Desk of the CEO

With 2018 in the rear view, it's important that we look back at such a historical year, while also moving forward to fine-tune our focus here at The Phia Group. In 2019, we will hone in on the highest priorities on behalf of our industry, to make certain that the momentum of innovation continues on. All of you must begin to empower your benefit plans. Healthcare has been, and continues to be the number one issue when discussing politics, law, and the economy. It is important to stay aware of change and the most cutting edge options, while also addressing each employer’s unique attributes and specific needs. We must create an understanding of what the best administrators are offering, so that we can in turn identify the best options for your benefit plan and all parties involved. Make it your resolution to understand the various types of plan components that are needed to stay competitive, while maximizing benefits and minimizing costs. I truly believe, we here at The Phia Group, have the tools to empower you to take control of your plan. Happy reading!

Service Focus of the Quarter: Independent Consultation & Evaluation (ICE)
Phia Group Case Study: Subrogation
Phia Fit to Print
From the Blogosphere
The Phia Group’s 2019 Charity
The Stacks
Phia’s Speaking Events
Employee of the Quarter
Phia News


Service Focus of the Quarter: Independent Consultation & Evaluation (ICE)

Here at The Phia Group, we are not a TPA, but we know TPAs like the back of our hand. That is why we developed our Independent Consultation and Evaluation service, colloquially known as ICE.

We know how difficult processing claims can be, especially when those claims involve complex situations. Asking Plan Administrators for guidance to avoid potential liability is always a good idea, but is sometimes not feasible due to time constraints or simply the fact that most plan administrators are not well-versed in the art and science involved in claims processing. Your clients are school districts, or textile manufacturers, or labor unions; what can they reasonably be expected to know about the law related to when an illegal acts exclusion can be applied, and when it cannot?

Enter The Phia Group’s ICE service. We are experts in the law related to health benefit offerings, and we know plan documents like Tom Brady knows a pigskin. ICE was created to ensure that health plans and the TPAs that work with them have a resource to tap when things get hairy – and since it is billed on a predictable PEPM rate, rather than on an hourly basis, it is affordable and accessible, and there are no surprises.

Contact our Vice President of Sales & Marketing Tim Callender, to learn more. Tim can be reached at 781-535-5631 or


Phia Case Study: Subrogation

A TPA client of The Phia Group had been unable to resolve a $62,000 lien with the patient’s attorney. The patient was in a motor vehicle accident, and subsequently retained an attorney to pursue the other driver for damages. The Plan Administrator attempted to place the attorney on notice of the plan’s right to reimbursement, but received no response whatsoever from the attorney, despite numerous letters and phone calls. The TPA had given up, and mentioned this failed recovery to one of The Phia Group’s attorneys in passing, who promptly volunteered that we would revive this file for them and attempt a recovery.

The Phia Group essentially started over by sending letters and calling the attorney, which again garnered no responses, as expected. The Phia Group’s legal team elected to take a different approach: after researching state law and decisions rendered by the state’s bar association, The Phia Group’s next correspondence focused on the attorney’s own ethical obligations, rather than only the patient’s reimbursement obligations.

The Phia Group not only received a prompt (and somewhat repentant) response from the attorney, but secured an agreement signed by the attorney to hold all settlement proceeds in trust and to honor the health plan’s rights in full. About two years later, the TPA recovered 90% of its lien.




Fiduciary Burden of the Quarter: Whether You Are A Fiduciary!

Simply put, federal law provides that with very limited exceptions, entities acting as fiduciaries may not disclaim such a designation. The law is fairly straightforward when it provides that “…any provision in an agreement or instrument which purports to relieve a fiduciary from responsibility or liability for any responsibility, obligation, or duty under this part shall be void as against public policy.” To elaborate on that, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that, “not only the persons named as fiduciaries by a benefit plan…but also anyone else who exercises discretionary control or authority over the plan's management, administration, or assets, is an ERISA fiduciary.”

Keep in mind, however, that the fact that an entity such as a TPA may be a fiduciary, under the reasoning spelled out above, does not necessarily mean that the TPA has breached a fiduciary duty when/if a breach occurs.

Fiduciary status is determined on a case-by-case basis; the courts have been clear that fiduciary status is triggered by the exercise of any discretionary authority over the management of a plan’s disposition of its assets. Practically speaking, the main purpose of fiduciary duties is money; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has summed it up very well by noting that “[a]n entity such as a third-party administrator becomes an ERISA fiduciary when it exercises practical control over an ERISA plan’s money.”

If you control money, you owe fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of that money. So…be careful! Consult a neutral third-party expert when you face difficult claims or benefits decisions.


Success Story of the Quarter: Independent Consulting & Evaluation (ICE)

A third-party administrator presented The Phia Group with the facts of a situation wherein one of their incoming groups, previously serviced by another administrator, had a great deal of antiquated and weak language in its Plan Document. Erin Hussey, an attorney at The Phia Group, reviewed the Plan and noticed particular issues within its “eligibility” section.

The first issue Erin spotted was language that incentivized Medicare-eligible employees to not enroll in their group health plan, and to enroll in Medicare instead. Erin noted that this provision was in violation of the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (“MSP”), which explicitly prohibits such incentives.

Second, the Plan Document explained that retiree coverage was not offered to non-executive employees. Erin noticed that this may run afoul of §105(h) non-discrimination rules; these rules prohibit group health plans from treating highly-compensated individuals (“HCIs”) more favorably than non-HCIs. Therefore, by providing retiree coverage to only executives (who are far more likely to be HCIs), this language seemed to violate the 105(h) rules.

Erin communicated these findings to The Phia Group’s client, who was understandably concerned with the language issues. Erin explained the applicable law, the TPA’s responsibilities, and potential issues and penalties that could arise, and she provided a set of best practices for the TPA to follow in such circumstances. Based on the information Erin imparted, The Phia Group’s client was able to work with the employer group to correct the language and avoid likely MSP and 105(h) penalties in the face of a federal government that has been cracking down on violations of federal law such as these.

This is a perfect example of a way that health plans can avoid problems before they arise! The Phia Group’s ICE service helps TPAs, plans, and brokers with issues with claims, appeals, and other concrete issues – but where ICE can help the most is by preventing tough problems before they arise!



Phia Fit to Print:

• Money Inc. – A Conflict of Intent: Why We Can’t Achieve a Meeting of the Minds on Healthcare – December 12, 2018

• Self-Insurers Publishing Corp. – The Modernization of Health Savings Accounts – December 3, 2018

• Free Market Healthcare Solutions – Prescription Drug Prices Bridge a Divided Electorate in Election Season – November 28, 2018

• Money Inc. – Dialysis Providers Withstand Regulatory Haymaker – November 26, 2018

• The Inquirer: Daily Philly News – Main Line Hospital Charges $63 for Olive Oil Used to Turn a Breech Baby – November 20, 2018

• Self-Insurers Publishing Corp. – Don't Let Your Loss Leave You DOA: Part II - States Speak Up! – November 2, 2018

• Self-Insurers Publishing Corp. – Explanations That Benefit – October 4, 2018

• Money Inc. – Why Does Reform Always Seem to Favor the Wrongdoer? – October 1, 2018


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From the Blogosphere:

A Texas Judge Strikes Down Obamacare – Our Take. Don’t miss out on this great blog post!

You Down with RBP? (You May Already Be!) Reference-based pricing is one of the most mysterious self-funding structures out there.

OSHA Publishes Guidance on Post-Accident Drug Testing. Here’s an explanation to these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances.

Healthcare on the Ballot, and a Free Side of Fries! Let’s take a step back and assess the big picture.

Is Your Life Insurance Policy Subject to ERISA? You may think this is a ridiculous question; however, Plan Sponsors and employers may want to reconsider this inquiry in light of a recent Seventh Circuit ruling...


To stay up to date on other industry news, please visit our blog.

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Click HERE to Register!

• On December 12, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “What to Expect in 2019 – Part 2,” where we discussed current industry happenings and our predictions to help you look forward to the coming year.

• On November 13, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “What to Expect in 2019 - Part 1,” where we discussed current industry happenings and our predictions to help you look forward to the coming year.

• On October 18, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “Specialty Drugs: Trends and Issues Affecting Self-Funded Plans,” where we discussed the rising costs of specialty drugs.

Be sure to check out all of our past webinars!

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Podcasts:Featuring Video Podcasts!

• On November 20, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “Politics With Brady,” where Brady and Ron analyze the recent election results, and determine how they will impact the health benefits and health care industries.

• On November 16, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “Talkin’ with TPAC,” where our hosts, Ron and Brady, enjoy chatting with Michael Meloch, President of TPAC Underwriters and valued member of The Phia Group’s own advisory board

• On November 1, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “Special Edition: Talking Politics, Elections, and Healthcare,” where our hosts discuss healthcare on the ballot.

• On October 22, 2018, The Phia Group presented “AHPs: Will They Live Up to the Hype,” where our hosts discuss the benefits and hurdles the final rules have created for these new AHPs.

• On October 15, 2018, The Phia Group presented “2019 - Fly Ball or Home Run,” where Ron and Adam discuss the many issues, changes and challenges 2018 has lined up for 2019.

• On October 1, 2018, The Phia Group presented “Learn from the Past to Shape the Future,” where our hosts sit down with industry legend and innovative leader, Jerry Castelloe of Castelloe Partners.

Be sure to check out all of our latest podcasts!


Face of Phia

• On November 29, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “Flying High with Judy,” where Ron and Adam sit down with a member of The Phia Group’s Customer Service team, Judith McNeil.

• On November 16, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “Not Your “Norma-l” Employee,” where our hosts, Adam Russo and Ron Peck, sit down with a member of The Phia Group’s Accounting team, Norma Phillips.

• On October 24, 2018, The Phia Group presented, “A Chat With Matt,” where Adam Russo and Ron Peck sit down with The Phia Group’s Marketing & Accounts Manager, Matthew Painten.


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The Phia Group’s 2019 Charity

At The Phia Group, we value our community and everyone in it. As we grow and shape our company, we hope to do the same for the people around us.

The Phia Group's 2019 charity is the Boys & Girls Club of Brockton.

The mission of The Boys & Girls Club is to nurture strong minds, healthy bodies, and community spirit through youth-driven quality programming in a safe and fun environment.

The Boys & Girls Club of Brockton (BGCB) was founded in 1990 to create a positive place for the youth of Brockton, Massachusetts. It immediately met a need in the community; in the first year alone, 500 youths, ages 8-18, signed up as club members. In the 25 years since, the club has expanded its scope exponentially by offering a mix of Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) nationally developed programs and activities unique to this club.

Since their founding, more than 20,000 Brockton youths have been welcomed through their doors. Currently, they serve more than 1,000 boys and girls ages 5-18 annually through academic year and summertime programming.


Thanksgiving – A Special Delivery

On Wednesday, November 21st, the Phia family went out to our local grocery store and purchased a total of 20 Thanksgiving dinners for the families of The Boys & Girls Club of Brockton. Once we loaded them up in our cars, we personally delivered them to the families. Words cannot express the feeling we got when we saw the looks on those families’ faces.


Christmas Tree Angel

Each year employees of The Phia Group pick nametags from the Angel Tree that sits in our main lobby. On those tags are names, ages and the wish lists of children from The Boys & Girls Club of Brockton. This year we had over 100 nametags! The Phia family loves to give back to the community; our greatest joy is providing these children with all of their holiday wishes.


Unwrapping Christmas

Santa and his elves made a surprise visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Brockton, one week before Christmas. Santa had sent a special elf to the Boys & Girls Club a couple of weeks prior to their visit to ask each child what they wanted most for Christmas. Santa and his elves gave out over 100 gifts to these amazing and talented children. We love giving gifts, but we really love receiving those smiles in return.  

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The Stacks

The Modernization of Health Savings Accounts

By: Krista J. Maschinot, Esq. – December 2018 – Self-Insurers Publishing Corp.

HSAs are highly regulated, tax-exempt savings accounts that both individuals and employers may contribute to on behalf of individuals covered by certain high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). These accounts are designed to help individuals set aside funds to be used for the qualified medical expenses of the individuals, their spouses, and their tax dependents. Unlike flexible spending accounts (FSAs), HSAs are not subject to mandatory “use it or lose it rules” and while FSAs are not portable, HSAs are portable as they are owned by the individual, not the employer, and can follow the individual as he or she changes jobs similar to a 401(k) or an individual retirement account (IRA). HSAs can be invested similar to a retirement account and have the ability to grow over time making them a valuable retirement vehicle. They are funded on a pretax basis through a cafeteria plan and result in a triple tax savings for the individual as they are funded with pretax dollars, grow tax-free, and are not taxed upon withdrawal so long as they are used to pay for qualified medical expenses.

Click here to read the rest of this article

Don't Let Your Loss Leave You DOA: Part II - States Speak Up!

By: Kelly E.Dempsey, Esq. – November 2018 – Self-Insurers Publishing Corp.

Remember that scenario from Spring of 2017 where an employer was attempting to do right by an employee and offered a continuation of coverage during an employer-approved leave of absence? If not, let’s quickly refresh our memories.

An employer’s long-time trusted employee had a stroke of bad luck and was diagnosed with stage four cancer after being relatively asymptomatic and having never been diagnosed with cancer previously. As the employee’s treatment plan became more aggressive, the employee ultimately needed to take a leave of absence – but leave under The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was exhausted due to the employee’s recent addition of a new baby. The employer subsequently continued to provide coverage, pursuant to 2016 guidance issued by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding employer-provided leave in accordance with The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Click here to read the rest of this article


Explanations That Benefit

By: Jon Jablon, Esq. – October 2018 – Self-Insurers Publishing Corp.

In the course of working with many different third-party administrators, it has become clear that every TPA operates differently. Claims processes are no exception; although federal law prescribes certain rules and regulations for the basics of what must be done and how, TPAs and health plans are left to their own devices to figure out the nuts and bolts of their particular processes. The only real requirement is that those processes fit in with the regulators’ rules and vision for how the industry should operate.

Click here to read the rest of this article


To stay up to date on other industry news, please visit our blog.

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Phia’s Q4 Speaking Events:

Phia’s Speaking Engagements:

• 1/9/2019 – FMMA Conference – Austin, TX

• 2/27/2019 – Sunlife 2019 MVP Academy – Denver, CO

• 3/8/2019 – UnitedAg Conference – Anaheim, CA

• 3/21/2019 – CGI Business Solutions Seminar – Woburn, MA

• 3/26/2019 – HFTA Broker Meeting – Tyler, TX

• 4/3/2019 – BenefitsPRO Broker Expo – Miami, FL

• 4/5/2019 – Pareto Conference – Nashville, TN

• 4/7/2019 – Captive Symposium – Cayman Islands

• 4/11/2019 – FMMA Conference – Dallas, TX

• 4/24/2019 – Sunlife 2019 MVP Academy – Kansas City, MO

• 4/25/2019 – Best Practices Workshop – Orlando, FL

• 5/30/2019 – Contrarian Captive – Austin, TX

• 6/11/2019 – Leavitt Conference – Big Sky, MT

• 7/31/2019 – 2019 MVP Academy – Wellesley, MA

• 8/24/2019 – Well Health Workshop – Chicago, IL

• 10/27/2019 – 2019 Annual NASP Conference – Washington DC


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Get to Know Our Employee of the Quarter:
Philip Qualo

Congratulations to Philip Qualo, The Phia Group’s Q4 2018 Employee of the Quarter!

Since he started just over 6 months ago, Philip has proven himself instrumental to our compliance team. He has shown a passion for and commitment to ensuring that our company remains compliant with state and federal laws as we have continued to grow and thus become subject to new and increasingly complex regulations. In particular, he played a lead role in updating and revising our Employee Handbook, even tackling the rather arduous process of researching state law and creating supplements for each of the 11 states in which we now have remote employees. In addition to internal compliance efforts, Philip has produced high-quality consulting work for our clients. Successfully functioning in a dual-role is never easy for a new employee, especially when those roles involve sensitive human resources and compliance matters. Philip has performed admirably, and for that, he has earned our trust, and earned my Passion Award nomination.



Congratulations Philip and thank you for your many current and future contributions.


Get to Know Our Employee of the Year:
Brady Bizarro

Congratulations to Brady Bizarro, The Phia Group’s 2018 Employee of the Year!

Brady has made his mark here at The Phia Group. Between traveling, speaking on our webinars and gracing industry leaders with his knowledge of politics and D.C. happenings at conferences around the United States, we would like to thank him for all that he has done. You truly exemplify what Phia employees should strive to be.


Congratulations Brady and thank you for your many current and future contributions. 



Phia News


Announcement of SIIA’s Next Chairman

Adam V. Russo, CEO of The Phia Group, will serve as the chairman of SIIA’s board of directors. Adam has been a long-time active SIIA member and will be concluding five years of service as a director. Congratulations to Adam and thank you for all fo the hard you and dedication.


A Phia Halloween

How great are these costumes? This year, the Phia Halloween Costume Contest was truly a nail-biter. Who would win? Rafiki? The clown? The fan favorite “Gambina the Unicorn riding Sprinkles the Unicorn,” bravely worn by Gambit Hunt, ultimately took home the gold. Thank you to all who participated, you truly made it a stellar Halloween!


Ugly Sweater Contest

Our Phia Family is so festive! Our “Ugly Sweater Day” was a hit and we thank all those who participated; congratulations to Norma (pictured below sporting a green and red number, with gold shoulders) for winning “Ugliest Sweater”!




Job Opportunities:

• Accounting Manager

• Staff Attorney, Provider Relations

• Case Investigator I

• Claims Analyst

• Health Benefit Plan Drafter

See the latest job opportunities, here:



• Ekta Gupta was promoted from ETL Specialist to Manager, Data Services Group

• Gambit Hunt was promoted from Sales Coordinator to Sales Executive


New Hires

• Tammy Tran was hired as an Accounts Payable Coordinator

• Christina Veneto was hired as a Talent Acquisition Specialist

• Brittany Grueter was hired as a Case Investigator I

• Elise Mulready was hired as a Claim and Case Support Analyst

• Nicholas Bonds was hired as a Health Benefit Plan Admin - Attorney I

• Danijela Stanic was hired as a Health Benefit Plan Consultant I

• Michael Vaz was hired as a Sales and Accounts Coordinator

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