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The Phia Group's 4th Quarter 2020 Newsletter

Phone: 781-535-5600 |

The Book of Russo:
From the Desk of the CEO

Welcome to the Fall Season! Here in Boston, the leaves are turning color and the air is getting a bit cooler. Meanwhile, at The Phia Group we are busier than ever (even though I haven’t been on a plane since February, and haven’t worn any of my beloved suits in over six months). What I have done, however, is learn that even though I can’t fly anywhere to see clients or prospects, we are still creating new opportunities together. Additionally, though miles may separate us, I am still thrilled to remain in close contact with so many of you virtually; be it by e-mail, phone, or video conference. In fact, in some ways, I actually feel like – since this

pandemic started – I have had more contact with you – my industry friends. Please, reach out any time, as communicating with you has been and will continue to be one reminder of better times. There is no question that my relationship with many individuals here at Phia has also grown tremendously since March. For instance, where we used to do monthly staff meetings, we now do them – virtually – on a weekly basis. Unlike the past, now we also invite our staff to have their children join in on the video calls; (plus pets too). Since all of this started, I have gotten to meet so many family members – both two legged and four – that I otherwise would not have encountered. I’m not even addressing the fact that I actually get to see all of my kids every day, instead of calling them from some random hotel room or airport terminal. If you think I am a “glass half full” type of person, then you are correct. I guess I have always tried to be optimistic in life. I am looking at the silver lining, as it applies to the pandemic, but I also feel the same way about self-funding, and where it is heading. The sky is the limit for our industry and we here at The Phia Group are ready to assist you in ensuring its success. Let the following serve as proof that we can do great things together, and don’t forget to reach out soon. Happy reading!


Enhancements of the Quarter: Phia Unwrapped & Balance Billing Value Reports
Phia Fit to Print
From the Blogosphere
The Phia Group’s 2020 Charity
The Stacks
Employee of the Quarter
Phia News



Enhancement of the Quarter: Phia Unwrapped and Balance Billing Value Reports

Clients of both Phia Unwrapped and our Balance Bill resolution services will be excited to hear that we have this quarter created brand new reports for both services.

Both the Phia Unwrapped and Balance Billing Value Reports not only highlight performance for a particular group, or across a TPA’s entire block of business, but also compare those results to various benchmarks, to provide a feel for how those results hold up in a more objective manner. These new reporte provide the user with an easy-to-read summary of successes The Phia Group has achieved for groups it services, on a quarterly and yearly basis, both in relation to Phia Unwrapped and Balance Bill resolution services. What’s more, it will be automatically provided on a regular basis, but it can also be run on-demand by contacting The Phia Group’s Customer Success Team.

These new reporte highlight the value added by Phia Unwrapped, and conflicts resolved through Balance Bill resolution, both in an information-packed, but comprehensible, PDF. They are designed to not only be informational, but also an important client-retention and marketing tool for TPAs and brokers. Since these reports will be accurate as of the minute they were run, our clients can rest easy knowing that they will always be able to have accurate information at their disposal, whether it’s to provide progress reports to groups, to make tough payment decisions using past data for reference, to include within a renewal proposal, or simply out of curiosity.



The Phia Group is constantly seeking new ways to improve health plans’ self-funding experience; as always, we are Empowering Plans.

To learn more about Phia Unwrapped, Balance-Billing services, or any other services The Phia Group offers, please contact our Sales Manager, Garrick Hunt, at 781-535-5644 or



Service Focus of the Quarter: Patient Defender

Anyone reading this who personally uses RBP, has a client that uses RBP, or has even thought about using RBP is familiar with the concept of balance-billing. RBP is a great tool for plans to use to contain costs, and has proven monumentally successful for some groups – but the threat of balance-billing and collections still exists from some stubborn providers, no matter how effective the patient advocacy may be.

In response to the needs of the self-funded industry’s ever-growing RBP market, The Phia Group has created Patient Defender: a true legal tool to combat the balance-billing problem. Through Patient Defender, for a nominal fee, patients have access to an attorney to represent them if they are sued or sent to collections – and even if they choose to proactively litigate against a medical provider! Gone are the days when a TPA or employer has to tell a patient that the patient can litigate, but must pay his or her own attorney’s fees. Groups that the Patient Defender have pre-paid the attorney’s fee for the patient, removing the most substantial barrier to a patient’s legal defense.

This innovative tool is primarily designed for an RBP plan to supplement its existing patient advocacy program and further protect its members from balance-billing and collections, but it can be an add-on to any plan that pays any claims at any non-contracted rates (since it’s certainly not just RBP plans that may face balance-billing).

For more information about this unique service offering, contact our Sales Manager, Garrick Hunt, at 781-535-5644 or


Success Story of the Quarter: Negotiating COVID-19 Test Claims

As you may know, and as you and your clients may have discovered, there is some recent federal legislation concerning payment rates for COVID-19 testing. In a nutshell, medical providers offering COVID-19 tests must post the price they charge for the test on their website, and health plans must pay those rates, absent a negotiated rate with the provider.

The legislation has been broadly read to imply that to be applicable, a negotiated rate must be in place prior to the test being performed. We see no evidence of that, though; we have been staunch proponents of the idea that the posting of the price does not preclude negotiation of that price following treatment. If the provider refuses to negotiate, we will counsel a client not to ignore the federal regulations – but we also believe this negotiation effort is in compliance with the law.

We have had occasion to approach a few providers in an attempt to settle, but the general response from providers has been to hold firm, under the theory of: “Why the heck would we lower this price that the law says you have to pay?!” A TPA client of ours informed us that they have a group benefit plan client that has incurred claims for a very large number of COVID-19 tests, with substantially all of them coming from the same provider. The TPA asked us if we could negotiate a better rate than the posted rate.

We’ll skip to the interesting part: this plan was willing to steer all of its patients to another provider if this provider didn’t agree to negotiate a better rate. Despite having the knowledge that the plan did have a legal obligation to pay the full bill, these other factors and our approach led to the provider ultimately being willing to negotiate a better rate for both the tests already incurred as well as future tests.

We knew it was possible – but seeing it happen felt good!


Phia Case Study: Unwrapping Without Unwrapped – Our Claim Negotiation & Signoff Service

A client of The Phia Group’s case-by-case negotiation service (Claim Negotiation & Signoff, or CNS) presented us with a very large hospital claim, and requested that we negotiate it. One of our experts approached the hospital to open a dialogue, but was immediately shut down with a stern note indicating the hospital’s unwavering refusal to negotiate.

Of course, our team was not about to give up, but it was cause to strategize. It seemed clear that throwing numbers at this hospital – even supported by data such as Medicare equivalents, cost-to-charge ratios, average commercial reimbursement, and more – was not going to get us anywhere. We tried to negotiate in good faith, but the hospital refused to entertain an offer.

Ultimately, our client wanted this to go away fairly quickly, so the Plan paid its minimum benefits and attempted a method called “accord and satisfaction,” where an additional conditional payment was made, the condition being that the hospital close its file. The theory is that negotiating in theoretical numbers is one thing, but having an actual, physical check for additional payment can yield better results. Alas, the provider rejected that conditional payment, and sent the check back.

After a series of conversations with the group, its broker, the TPA, the stop-loss carrier, and Phia, it was decided that Phia would attempt to enforce the plan’s initial payment (pursuant to the Plan Document), and the plan would essentially walk away for now, and deal with balance-billing if it happened.

So, we waited. And waited. And we’re still waiting. There has been no balance-billing; just angry letters from the hospital demanding that the plan pay more, but no mention of threats to balance-bill the member nor a formal appeal. That isn’t uncommon; a show of strength from a health plan can go a long way to show a provider that the plan means business. Many providers are loathe to balance-bill their patients, and the only way to find out is to test those waters. If the hospital does decide to balance-bill the patient, we’ll sic our experienced balance-billing team on it – but things are looking good for the time being.

Now just imagine this strategy being applied to all out-of-network claims (via Phia Unwrapped), whereby a plan pays its minimum benefits, stands firm, and combats balance-billing on the back-end, as such issues arise.


Fiduciary Burden of the Quarter: Determining Which Services Can Be Covered

This following decision about which we will now discuss, is not traditionally thought of as invoking a fiduciary duty, and that thought is generally accurate in most contexts. In the midst of a pandemic, however, some health plans have been delving more deeply into the question of what services they may cover. In general, ERISA and the IRS rules permit health plans to cover any medical services, and for the vast majority of services, there is no question whether or not they fall into that category. But what about things like art therapy? As some individuals seek to transition from more “traditional” medical care to alternatives, perhaps not in a traditional hospital or physician office setting, questions are arising, most relevantly whether the IRS rules even allow a health plan to cover these types of services.

In general, the IRS has made certain rules regarding which services can be covered by a health plan; and those are, broadly, services that constitute medical care. That term is defined in terms of services designed for “the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body.”

The decision of whether or not a particular service complies with that definition (and therefore the tax rules) is left to the Plan Sponsor. The regulators generally require that Plan Sponsors use a good faith, reasonable interpretation of the relevant rules and guidance, in order to best comply when it might not be 100% clear – so unfortunately, plans (usually via the TPA) will need to scrutinize these services and determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether something like art therapy was truly medical in nature.

What little guidance we’ve gotten from the IRS on this topic suggests that it is not necessarily the case that including things such as art therapy as line items within a Plan Document are necessarily dispositive of whether or not the plan is complying with tax rules in any given case; for instance, Mary may have a legitimate need for art therapy as a form of medical care, whereas Michael may be a rambunctious child whose parents send him to a two-week insurance-funded art therapy retreat in lieu of expensive summer camp. For Mary, the art therapy was medical care, and therefore the IRS rules permit the plan to cover it – but for Michael, the IRS rules would not permit it.

The moral of this strange story is that a health plan may only cover medical care, and the plan will need to be careful if it lists any non-traditional treatment in the SPD. There is nothing inherently noncompliant about simply listing that care – but benefits should only be actually paid by the health plan if the care truly meets the definition of “medical care.”



• On September 22, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “Benefits on the Ballot – A Political Update for Health Benefits Professionals,” where we discussed the most important elections (including candidates’ positions on health), ongoing legal cases, and proposed laws.

• On August 17, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “Conflicts Abound – Providers & Facilities Fight Back,” where we discussed new aggressive tactics used by providers and facilities, as well as the conflicts they are causing with networks and stop-loss.

• On July 15, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “The Underlying Regulatory Landscape - Don’t Get Lost in the New Normal,” where we discussed statutes, regulations, and case law that have been and continue to be considered, debated, and finalized; resulting in serious, lasting effects.

Be sure to check out all of our past webinars!



Empowering Plans

• On September 24, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “The Pandemic & The Employer Mandate,” where our hosts, Kelly Dempsey and Brady Bizarro, discuss a particularly damaging impact of the pandemic that does not get much media attention: with many businesses forced to operate at reduced capacity, they still have to comply with the ACA's employer mandate.

• On September 15, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “IRS Notice 2020-29, COVID-19 and Cafeteria Plans: Self-Funded Plans Beware!,” where our hosts, Jennifer McCormick and Philip Qualo, discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about an unprecedented wave of federal legislation in a short period of time specifically aimed at regulating employer-sponsored group health plan coverage.

• On September 2, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “Healthcare Policy at the DNC/RNC,” where our hosts, Ron Peck and Brady Bizarro, assess what we learned from the candidates on healthcare policy at the virtual Democratic and Republican national conventions..

• On August 3, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “SCOTUS & HHS – ICYMI,” where our hosts, Jennifer McCormick and Nick Bonds, discuss significant developments in nondiscrimination regulations, and the implications for those in the self-funding industry.

• On July 23, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “COVID-19’s Catch-22,” where our hosts, Ron and Brady, discuss a Catch-22 emerging in the midst of the global pandemic - as more government intervention is needed to deal with COVID-19, calls for a public option and Medicare for All grow louder.

• On July 17, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “COVID, Floyd, and the Fight for Social Justice,” where our hosts, Ron Peck and Brady Bizarro, address recent events that have altered the world as we knew it in a matter of months, and in one notable case, in one day.

• On July 10, 2020, The Phia Group presented, “Catching up with the Courts,” where our hosts, Ron Peck and Brady Bizarro, jump into a discussion about recent high-profile court cases that could shape our industry: from requiring hospitals to post their negotiated rates with insurers online to the Trump administration's latest action in the Supreme Court case that could spell the end of the entire Affordable Care Act.

Be sure to check out all of our latest podcasts!


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Phia Fit to Print:

• BenefitsPro – – September 24, 2020

• Self-Insurers Publishing Corp. – RISE AND SHINE: Employment-Based Health Benefits In A Post-COVID Future – September 3, 2020

• BenefitsPro – How COBRA premium subsidies can protect employer-sponsored coverage – September 1, 2020

• Self-Insurers Publishing Corp. – SUBROGATION: The oldest and most effective form of cost containment – August 6, 2020

• BenefitsPro – Considerations for group health plans in 2021 – July 24, 2020

• Self-Insurers Publishing Corp. – COVID-19, Balance Billing, Out-Of-Network Claims, and Confusing Charges - An Ugly Combination – July 7, 2020

• BenefitsPro – Worker’s comp recovery in a COVID-19 world? It depends! – July 2, 2020

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From the Blogoshpere:

Plan Mirroring: What Does It Really Mean? Is your stop-loss carrier mirroring your SPD Language?

Returning to Work Safely and Smartly. Who Bears the Cost? How is it possible to keep everyone in your office safe?

New Rules on Prescription Drug Importation Are Released – Or Are They? At first glance, the order seems to take sweeping steps to facilitate the importation of prescription drugs, but does any of it really represent a departure from existing law?

A Brief Anecdote on Testing for COVID-19. Find out where you can get tested for COVID-19.

Simple Negotiations Made Not-So-Simple. Even something as simple as a plain old claim negotiation can still develop certain unexpected hiccups.

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


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The Stacks:

RISE AND SHINE: Employment-Based Health Benefits In A Post-COVID Future

By: Ron E. Peck, Esq. – September 2020 – Self-Insurers Publishing Corp.

One would reasonably assume that, when discussing a pandemic and health care, the natural direction in which we would head next would be a discussion regarding the health impact – present and future – of COVID-19. The treatment options, the cost of said treatment, as well as short-term and long-term impact of the disease on patients. Yet, here I will not attempt to dissect the clinical issues presented by coronavirus, and the immediate, direct impact it will have on our health benefit plans, and self-funded plan sponsors. Instead, I will be discussing a threat to our industry not called COVID-19, but rather, a growing sociopolitical threat that has emerged in response to a larger economic victim of the virus.

Click here to read the rest of this article

SUBROGATION: The oldest and most effective form of cost containment

By: Maribel Echeverry McLaughlin, Esq. – August 2020 – Self-Insurers Publishing Corp.

For many health plans, the first interaction with any type of cost containment method usually comes about when they begin to utilize subrogation as a way to keep plan costs low, and recover monies owed to them by third parties. It is one of the original, yet consistently effective, cost containment concepts that, as of recently, tends to get overlooked when discussing new and more innovative ways to enhance plan savings.

The history of subrogation can be traced back to as far as the origins of the Court of Chancery in the Elizabethan period. The English Court of Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters in equity, such as trusts, land disputes, the estates of lunatics and guardianship of infants. In this period, subrogation was a common equitable remedy, where one party was permitted to assume a third party’s legal right to collect a debt.

Click here to read the rest of this article

COVID-19, Balance Billing, Out-Of-Network Claims, and Confusing Charges - An Ugly Combination

By: Jon Jablon Esq., and Tim Callender Esq. – July 2020 – Self-Insurers Publishing Corp.

The COVID-19 crisis has sparked a discussion on an old, but repeatedly important and troublesome issue: balance billing and/or overbilling. During the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, news outlets were quick to report examples of health insurance coverage confusion, network issues, and billing issues, all related to a variety of COVID-19 claims.

In April, the federal government chose to tackle this concern by placing prohibitions on how providers could bill COVID-19 patients who received services from providers receiving funds under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Relief Fund. This attempt to control balance billing and excessive charging practices led to media confusion, with numerous media outlets reporting that the federal government had banned all balance billing and/or all surprise billing, which was not the case.

Click here to read the rest of this article


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The Phia Group's 2020 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 2020 charity is the Boys & Girls Club of Metro South.

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 Metro South (BGCMS) 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 youths have been welcomed through their doors. Currently, they serve more than 1,000 boys and girls ages 5-18 annually through the academic year and summertime programming.

Learning Pods Program

The Boys & Girls Club of Metro South’s Brockton Clubhouse has created a Learning Pods Program designed to support K-8 Students as they adapt to distance learning. This full-day program hosted by The Boys & Girls Club of Metro South was designed to help students and their parents get back into the swing of things, given the change in how students are learning. As you know, The Phia Group is dedicated to ensuring children in the Boys & Girls Club of Metro South are always prepared for their school year. When we heard that they were in need of school supplies for 100 students, we jumped to the opportunity to help. We have compiled a list, loaded up the Amazon cart, and placed our order. The money that we used to purchase these suppliles comes from donations made by the Phia Family and we are proud to announce that we have raised the $2,500 needed to purchase all of the school supplies. We hope all of the children have an amazing school year and can’t wait to hear all about the progress being made with the Learning Pods Program!

The Phia Group’s Diverse Library Exchange

The Phia Group and the Diversity Inclusion Committee are excited to announce the opening of Phia’s Diversity Exchange Library. Inspired by a recent article that featured Adam’s friends and family, the Phia Diversity Exchange Library is a designated space where employees can loan as well as pick up books that are written by authors, or feature characters, from diverse backgrounds.

The Library includes both adult and children books with the goal of facilitating cross-cultural book sharing and dialogue so that employees, and their families, can learn more about other cultures and diverse communities. It is through knowledge and education that we can become more aware of our own place in this world and learn how to respect and embrace others from different backgrounds.

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Get to Know Our Employee of the Quarter:
Aditya Sukumar

To be designated as an Employee of the Quarter is an achievement that is reserved for Phia employees who truly go above and beyond their day to day responsibilities. This person must not only transcend their established job expectations, but also demonstrate with fervency a dedication to The Phia Group and its employees that is so unparalleled that it cannot go without recognition.

The Phia Explore team has made the unanimous decision, without hesitation, that there is no one more deserving than our very own Aditya Sukumar, The Phia Group’s Q3 Employee of the Quarter!

Adi has been a valuable asset to the PDM and PMO teams. He dedication and commitment to client success is commendable. He has demonstrated his expertise in PDM and good communication skills during client demo’s and meetings. His goal oriented approach with focus on client success is very valued, especially his ability to carefully review and resolve client issues with a quick turnaround. He’s a wonderful team player, and doesn’t hesitate to take time out of his schedule to step in and help others when needed. He is truly a great asset to Phia.

Congratulations Aditya, and thank you for your many current and future contributions.


Job Opportunities:

• Customer Care Representative

• Accounting Administrator

• Chief Financial Officer

• Claim Analyst

• Claim and Case Support Analyst

• Case Investigator

• Health Benefit Plan Administration Attorney

• ETL Specialist

• Executive Assistant

See the latest job opportunities, here:


• Sabrina Centeio has been promoted from Claim Recovery Specialist IV to Sr. Claim Recovery Specialist

New Hires

• Dennis Ferzoko was hired as a Claim and Case Support Analyst

• Kaitlyn Furtado was hired as a Case Investigator

• Trina Garcia was hired as a PACE Specialist

• Jenny Armstrong was hired as a Sr. Subro Atty

• Brad Lee was hired as an IT Developer

• Emily King was hired as a Customer Service Rep

• Jillian Stone was hired as a Claim & Case Support Analyst

• Andrea Goodman was hired as a Plan Drafter

• Sneh Gaonshindhe was hired as a Sr. Software Engineer

• Adam Doherty was hired as a Claim & Case Support Analyst

• Anna Lopes was hired as a Claim & Case Support Analyst

• Bradley Bedarian was hired as a Case Investigator

• John Pagnotta was hired as a Case Investigator

• Soumya Gampa was hired as a Sr. Software Engineer


Phia News:

The Phia Group Reaffirms Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion

At The Phia Group, our commitment to fostering, cultivating, and preserving a culture of diversity and inclusion has not wavered from the moment we opened our doors 20 years ago. We realized early on that our human capital is our most valuable asset, and fundamental to our success. The collective sum of individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, inventiveness, innovation, self-expression, unique capabilities, and talent that our employees invest in their work, represents a significant part of not only our culture, but also our company’s reputation and achievements.

We embrace and encourage our employees’ differences, including but not limited to age, color, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, national origin, physical and mental ability or challenges, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make our employees unique.

The Phia Group’s diversity initiatives are applicable to all of our practices and policies, including recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, professional development and training, promotions, social and recreational programs, and the ongoing development of a work environment built on the premise of diversity equality.

We recognize that the success of our company is a direct reflection of each team member’s drive, creativity, diversity, and willingness to exercise initiative. With this in mind, we always seek to attract and develop candidates who share our passion for the healthcare industry and our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Welcome to Phia's New Home!

The Phia Group has officially moved! We are proud to announce that after 20 years in business, we have officially moved into an office that we have worked extremely hard for. Our growing staff needed more room and we wanted to make sure they felt right at home when they came to work. Check out our new office!

Welcome to Phia’s New Home in Louisville, KY!

The Phia Group has officially outgrown its Kentucky office after less than one year of opening, and will in Septemeber be moving to a bigger, better location. Since operations began in Kentucky, we have hired over 20 individuals from the Louisville area. We are amazed by the rapid growth of The Phia Group’s sister office and can’t wait to add more Louisville locals to the Phia family!

Welcome to Phia’s New Home in Louisville, KY!

The Phia Group has officially outgrown its Kentucky office after less than one year of opening, and will in Septemeber be moving to a bigger, better location. Since operations began in Kentucky, we have hired over 20 individuals from the Louisville area. We are amazed by the rapid growth of The Phia Group’s sister office and can’t wait to add more Louisville locals to the Phia family!

Customer Success Team

The Phia Group is proud to announce the restructuring of it’s Customer Success Team. As many of you may know from experiences within your own organizations, every sector is experiencing a fundamental shift in customer expectations. It no longer is enough to just be the industry leader in results, one must be the industry leader in customer relations as well. Our Customer Success Team (“CST”) is lead by Rebekah McGuire-Dye. Mrs. McGuire-Dye has over 25 years of experience working in cost containment. Her experience lends her to be an exceptional advocate for The Phia Group’s clients. Mrs. McGuire-Dye will lead her team in providing not just reactive responses to our clients, but in a pro-active approach to ensure every client of The Phia Group is maximizing the value of our many services while always looking for new and innovative products to help our clients grow and lead in their respective areas.

Here are a few items with which the CST can assist you with:

• Identify concerns regarding any and all Phia Group services or results, confirm the absence of an issue or resolve the matter, and ensure customer satisfaction with the explanation or revision;

• Identify any delays or roadblocks to remove them and ensure optimal performance;

• Deliver all reports and resolve any issues associated with them;

• Fully analyze, utilize, and interpret Value Reports and other reporting tools to identify both issues and opportunities;

• Respond to routine file specific client questions (e.g., status on file #12345); and,

• Provide subject matter expert (“SME”) assistance as needed.

Although our CST team continues to grow, it is already one of the best staffed and most professional departments at The Phia Group. We encourage all clients to reach out directly if they have any questions at

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