Do You Need to Be Certified to Understand Health Care Reform?

If you say the words “health care reform” to me, I get an instant migraine.

I’m not sure what it is: the thousands of pages of legislation, the litany of political posturing that led to its passage, or the seemingly hundreds of different dates and deadlines associated with implementing the legislation. It is far from my wheelhouse of expertise and I’m happy to let experts handle it and do the heavy lifting.

While I have a good understanding of health care reform’s impact on employers (and could probably fake my way through a conversation on it), I know that learning more about it was essential to continuing to help HR folks find ways of navigating some of the most confusing legislation to date.

When the idea of a free Health Care Reform Certification hit my inbox from Benefitfocus, I thought it was a bit gimmicky. I checked out the program though and saw some interesting things that could be helpful to HR professionals.

I spoke with Nancy Samson, VP of Marketing and Communications for Benefitfocus, about the program. In the last week, over 500 people tried out the program and 138 of them earned their certificate. “We have been pleasantly surprised by the numbers so far,” said Samson. At the SHRM Annual Conference in San Diego last month, response to this hot topic was also well received by attendees.

Going through the program

Samson also stated that they have a dedicated internal team working on keeping their information up to date to help companies stay in compliance as new regulations are finalized. “We’ve had about two updates a week as more information is clarified by the government,” she said.

So I gave the training a whirl just to see how it was (and to see if I still had the chops). The certification program is divided into eight different sections with 2-4 minute videos in each section followed by a quiz at the end. All in all, it took me about an hour to complete with a couple of typical interruptions.

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That should tell you something about the depth of the program. While the videos were compelling and easy to watch, there’s definitely some depth missing there. You can only cover so much in a 2-4 minute span. Having the scored quiz afterward (as well as all of the questions and answers downloadable at the end of the certification) was helpful, but it still left a bit of depth to be desired.

An easy way to understand the law

It’s not all negative though. For the Human Resources professional that touches benefits as part of their job, the condensed information is an easy way to understand the major impacts of the law. The message is clear and concise and can allow you to give simple explanations of the impact of health care reform to your employees. If you’re a benefits specialist just starting your research, the certification program would be a good jumping off point to figure out what you need to research more.

For me, it was an easier, focused, and plain spoken way of learning about the major impacts of health care reform. I’ve got more questions (about the various tax credits, penalties, and the CLASS program in particular) but I don’t know if I would’ve known exactly how to research those topics.

While I’m looking forward to getting my personalized certification in the mail, I’m not sure if it will win me any kudos at work. But it will mean I can continue to learn more about the continually changing health care reform laws.

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.