From the very beginning of COBRA to becoming the largest TPA in the country, United HealthCare’s UMR has grown with us. They were the first TPA on Travisoft’s “Corporate COBRA Manager,” and we are proud of our long-standing partnership and humbled that they continue to entrust their business with us.
To celebrate 30 Years, we had the pleasure of interviewing someone who has been with us since day one. Here is Linda Robbins, Director of COBRA and Enrollment Services. It’s been a great ride, and we loved hearing how Linda has put our system, team, and values to work for UMR’s large book of business.
Who is Linda?! What do you do when you aren’t being a COBRA superstar?
I have two children, a lawyer and a mobile app developer, and four grandchildren. When I’m not at work, it is all about my grandbabies. This past Easter, I hid 150 eggs for them. Some were as big as a foot, and some smaller, with everything from Barbies to remote control cars hidden in them. We also go to Disney World every year. And, when I’m not with my grandkids, I bike 7 miles a day on an indoor bike. We’re in Wausau, Wisconsin, so there’s only a few months a year where I can bike outside and not freeze.
Tell us about your history and experience.
I started working at (what became) UMR in 1985 as the team facilitator, then supervisor, manager, and finally, Director of COBRA and Enrollment Services.
Let’s go way back to the beginning. We bought the Travis COBRA system, and were your first TPA customer. After 5 years, we said we needed a billing system, so that’s how T-BILL (then, R-Bill) came along. Now we have that all in one system.
What does your department look like?
COBRA is only 50 percent of my time. We have 72 people in COBRA and Retiree billing, and 80 in Enrollment. Most are here in Wausau, but some work remotely. For instance, I have 21 people working overseas in Manila. That’s one reason we moved to Travisoft’s web platform, so people can work from home or anywhere in the world. It also helps us to retain employees. I had an awesome employee move to Florida, and thanks to being on the web, she’s able to work remotely.
Do you remember how you first heard of Travisoft?
Thirty years ago, I didn’t have a smartphone to ask. I went to the library and used the microfiche machine to look for a solution to this new law, COBRA. That’s where I saw an ad.
It’s been an interesting ride from then to now. We started on COBRA, had a hand in making T-BILL, moved to the web, and got through ARRA.
And, it keeps getting better and better. We’re now the largest TPA in the nation, which means we’re the largest COBRA administrator, too!
What have been some of the biggest changes to COBRA in the past 30 years?
When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) hit, I was terrified. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I didn’t know that Travisoft would be able to get the letters into the system fast enough. We were meeting every week – and I was losing my hair. But, Travisoft pulled through. The letters were updated in just a few weeks. I was so nervous, but we tested it, and it worked. My hair came back in, and it was great!
Then, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), everyone wondered what was going to happen with COBRA. I remember speaking with Travisoft, and the team felt very confident that COBRA would not go away that easily. What do you know – 5 years later, and we’re still going strong.
What industry publications do you follow?
I follow the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, which is why I have CEBS, GBA, and CMA after my name. There was a series of books I read and tests I had to take through Wharton University of Pennsylvania. I was a CEBS designation graduate in June 2010.
I also follow the Society of Professional Benefit Administrators, Thompson Reuters/EBIA, and have alerts set on the Department of Labor (DOL) website.
Have you reviewed other software solutions for COBRA?
When Travisoft came out with the first web-based application in 2005, we did a full review of our options to see if we wanted to go to the web, or in a new direction entirely. We researched all of our options, including how each compared on 40 key items. Travisoft came out above and beyond.
What makes you stay with Travisoft?
You’re real, and always available. You have been there to partner with us for regulation changes, website security, or other industry changes. I think of Travisoft as a member of our team, where we work together to achieve a common goal. I work with Courtney, Jerry, Daniel, Gina, and Margarita daily to prioritize items, updates, and deliverables that work well, and are mutually-beneficial, for both sides’ schedules and goals.
How have you customized your system to better serve your team and clients?
We get around 4,800 – 6,500 calls per month, and our Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system fields about 25 percent of those calls. The key is in our tables. Every day, Travisoft gives us data in our pre-defined tables that feed into the IVR. So, participants can call UMR’s COBRA number, no matter what day or time, to get payment information like due dates or amounts, last payment received, or the option to change payment methods – which is great for Retirees!
Our IT team also built a few system interfaces before we were on the web that allow clients to add information or view reports from our internet portal. It takes some of the burden off my team.
Can you tell us about your experience using Professional Services?
This is the first year to ever buy 100 hours. I’m going to use your Professional Services team to add more data elements to my daily tables, and to work on some report customization I’ve been wanting to do.
What makes Travisoft unique?
You have a great system and partner with us to make it even better. We stay with you because we have done the research and you are the best – from treating us with respect, to listening to us, to being realistic and not giving lip service.
I couldn’t even think about doing this without you guys. You’re our lifeline.
Last, where do you see the industry going? What is next for COBRA administration?
It’s all about getting information quickly. The future is emailing notices and giving clients access to the system, which you have but we don’t use just yet. And, I have to say it for my son, what about… a mobile application?