Search I95 Business Magazine




Advocate for Employers and Employees

December 2012

Carrie Shapiro, Innovative Insurance Solutions

Carrie Shapiro, Innovative Insurance Solutions

You’re not going to use any of that personal stuff we talked about, are you?” That’s what Carrie Shapiro, a petite dynamo of a woman asked a few days after talking with I95 BUSINESS, when confirming receipt of an email containing copies of PowerPoint presentations (not the point and snooze kind) she uses at her high-demand seminars about heath care reform.

“What personal stuff?” the reporter thought to herself, remembering a Saturday morning rise and shine interview at which Shapiro deftly deflected almost every personal question and steered the conversation toward health care reform and the staggeringly punitive penalties that await business owners who are unaware of disclosure and notification compliance laws. She threw out health care related alphabet soup acronyms with the ease only the daughter of a Marine could.

Peruse the Innovative Insurance Solutions website and you get more of the same. Not a lot about Carrie or her six licensed team members, but a wealth of information about health care reform and a demonstration – not a promise – of the expertise and service business owners will receive should they make Innovative Insurance Solutions their employee benefits provider.

“I can’t possibly know the depth of the issues before us. My strategy is to find experts. For me, as a legislator, I really look to Carrie as an expert in health care reform,” says Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-MD 7th District). “If I have a question on Obamacare or a health insurance benefit before me, I will call her for an opinion. This is a huge asset. You can tell she loves what she does, embraces what she does. It’s not a chore, it’s a passion.”

Shapiro founded Innovative Insurance Solutions (IIS) in 2004. In fewer than 10 years, the firm has amassed honors that usually go only to the industry’s big dogs – Top 50 Producer with CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland and Top 50 in the country for a national third-party administrator. IIS has an eye-popping client retention rate of 98 percent and, since 2010, a growth rate of 140 percent.

ISS offers an array of services and products, but what sets IIS apart from its competition, however, is Shapiro’s commitment to employee benefit services and compliance consulting.

“We have saved our clients millions of dollars,” Shapiro says, noting IIS takes each new client through an eight-step review and analysis to determine a client’s goals, needs and budget. “There are a lot of compliance requirements owners do not know about. Most business owners think the insurance carrier is responsible for some requirements when in fact compliance rests solely with the employer.”

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) compliance is a case in point.

“If a company has fewer than 100 plan participants, the ERISA 5500 form is not required; however, ERISA disclosure compliance is,” she says. “There are more than a dozen health care reform and ERISA notices that need to be provided to an employee, and the employer must ensure delivery to each participant.”

Shapiro rattles off the numbers in her trademark rapid-fire presentation style.

“If there are 10 employees and 16 notices, you have 160 failures. The fine is $110 per day per failure,” she says. “This is a law already on the books.”

The ERISA-required summary plan document compliance is another employer minefield.

“We find 80 percent of employers are non-compliant,” she says, referring to one client who thought a lunchroom posting was sufficient. “The four-page Summary of Benefits Coverage effective 9/23/2012 does not replace the Summary Plan Document. Employers must ensure employee receipt of these documents, whether it’s a paper copy or signed acknowledgment of an electronic copy.

Employers need to guarantee that the employee performs his/her job at a work site computer, and the computer is available to view these documents. In some cases, we have prepared CDs for our clients’ employees. A $1,000 fine may apply for each willful failure to provide an SPD or an SBC.”

Not only does IIS demonstrate a commitment to business owners, the firm and its staff place a premium on protecting and helping a business’s most valuable asset, its employees.

“Claims support for employees is a highly-valued service,” she notes. “While most brokerages offer some amount of assistance, comprehensive claims advocacy is hard to find. If a claim is not paid properly, we work behind the scenes to resolve the matter so that the employees do not spend company time remedying it themselves. Our clients’ employees receive pro-active email or phone status updates until we achieve complete resolution.”

Just as Del. Szeliga recognizes she cannot be an expert in everything, all the time, Shapiro recognizes this, as well.

Innovative Insurance Solutions Principal Carrie Shapiro, left, and partner Eric Shapiro, her husband, lead the Bel Air office, while partner Joanne DeLoache leads the Annapolis office.

“You can’t be a specialist in every discipline. You don’t want to be a generalist with average skills. A business should want an expert. Oftentimes businesses are tempted to meet all of their insurance and payroll needs with one company. People want to consolidate everything,” she says. “I call on a team of professionals, like Content McLaughlin with McLaughlin Law Group, Renee McNally with HR Solutions, Adam Freeland at Harford Financial Group, Laura Barwick, a CPA, and property and casualty, ERISA and tax attorneys who are experts in their disciplines.”

Shapiro chooses to be an expert in the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) and is rapidly amassing her personal alphabet soup of acronyms through studies at the American College to ensure she is. By February 2013, she will complete a three-year educational plan to earn Chartered Healthcare Reform Consultant, Chartered Life Underwriter, Registered Employee Benefits Consultant and Registered Health Underwriter credentials.

“I’ve read 10,000 pages of the 2,600-page bill,” Shapiro says with a laugh. “For the ChHC, we had a law professor teaching it. The bill is so complex that we dissected everything that affects our employer’s clients. There are changes that take place through 2018, with 2010 and 2014 being the big years.”

Referring to the recent presidential election, she adds, “Employers took a wait and see approach, and most have done nothing. We as a company understood parts of the Act will be here to stay regardless of the outcome. The Department of Labor has hired 1,600 new EBSA agents to begin auditing businesses. There is so much fine detail. If a business is audited for health care reform compliance, they expose themselves to additional audits such as COBRA, HIPAA, etc. Whether you have two employees or 100 or 1,000, all compliance applies no matter a company’s size. In 2014, the pay or play tax comes in. If you have two to 50 employees, there is no fine for not offering benefits; however, there are fines associated with HCR and ERISA disclosure non-compliance.”

Sheryl Davis Kohl, president of Beacon Staff Alternatives in Aberdeen, met Shapiro during their work with the Harford County Chamber of Commerce’s legislative committee. Kohl is co-chair, and Shapiro was the expert the committee asked to discuss the ramifications of the Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010.

“It’s possible I will have to offer health care benefits to my temps based on full-time equivalent,” Kohl says. She learned from Shapiro that the Affordable Healthcare Act calls for determining a company’s number of employees for compliance requirements by FTEs, not the number of actual full-time employees. Kohl also learned the Act uses a 30-hour workweek to determine FTEs.

As an expert in employment laws and regulations, Kohl says, “Think about how that will affect the hospitality industry. I’m just a little guy, but there are a lot of me out there.” Impressed by Shapiro’s knowledge, Beacon Staffing Alternatives became one of IIS’s new clients in 2012. I95

Innovative Insurance Solutions

Carrie Shapiro’s Personal Side

Although Carrie Shapiro’s college and potential professional athletic career was ended due to a near-fatal car wreck, she still scored 280 points in 15 at bats during Harford Family House’s 2012 Homeruns for the Homeless.

Carrie Shapiro, 37, grew up in Baltimore County. Raised by “the two best parents in the world,” she credits her Marine Corps dad with instilling in her dedication, a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. A self-described tomboy, Shapiro took a young lady’s obligatory tap, ballet and jazz dancing classes, but her heart was in playing soccer, basketball and softball.

Shapiro’s athletic skills earned her recognition as an All-County All-Star American soccer player, as well; she was awarded the Baltimore County Softball Utility Player award and the Unsung Hero Award in basketball. A near-fatal car accident derailed her competitive athletic pursuits and she was forced to give up an athletic scholarship. Instead Shapiro refocused her sports interests on Exercise Physiology studies at the University of Maryland.

“Due to sports injuries, exercise physiology appealed to me early. I had two years of physical therapy after the wreck,” she says. She worked her way through college at a physical therapy practice, and helped with medical billing and insurance claims while offering personal training and therapeutic massage services.

“A former colleague was working with a carrier and asked if I wanted to get into writing policies,” she says. She quickly proved her mettle: she was among the Top 3 producers for the Mid-Atlantic region for three years and, for five years, exceeded her personal sales goals by 250 percent. As a team leader, her sales consultants exceeded production goals
by 200 percent.

She was working from Annapolis when she segued to representing a carrier.

“Instead of working for myself and being able to write for multiple companies, I could only write for one. I was not an adviser to the client; I represented a product. I felt this was a disservice, so I started Innovative Insurance Solutions in 2004,” she says. Her service-centric approach was honed through her experiences as a long-term health care patient, working in medical billing, being a provider of therapy and training services, and selling insurance.

“I am passionate about what I do. I care about the clients, their employees and their families,” she says.

Her community involvements provide proof of her compassion.

Eric and Carrie Shapiro, left, visited with Content and Mark McLaughlin at SARC’s Balloon Glow Gala in September.

Shapiro sits on the Harford Family House board of directors, and through IIS, supports the initiatives of SARC, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County, the Community Foundation of Harford County, the Annapolis Lighthouse Shelter, Hospice of the Chesapeake, the Wounded Warrior Project, Little Sisters of the Poor, Relay for Life, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, SPCA and more.

“If you want something done, ask a busy person. I have found this especially true of Carrie,” says Joyce Duffy, executive director of Harford Family House in Aberdeen. “Carrie is a role model for board members everywhere. She gives of her time, talent and treasure to help raise support for the homeless families we serve. And who could say no to her? Her passion for our mission is evident and straight from the heart.”