You are here

Deciding if a firm is eligible to join SPBA and if it would be a worthwhile investment for you

Candid advice from SPBA President Fred Hunt.

SPBA was formed for the very narrow purpose of representing only TPAs. SPBA recognizes that there are many excellent broad benefits associations, so we do not try to duplicate that good work. We're specialists to help TPAs, and we focus mainly on the nitty-gritty minutia of regulatory requirements and interpretations.

The term "TPA" has expanded tremendously of course, and there are dozens of types of specialty TPAs today....such as just cafeteria plans, just Workers Comp, just vision, just dental, etc. etc. Frankly, membership in SPBA would be of little value to a TPA in just one specialty. SPBA's goal is to be the most cost-effective business investment for each member, so if we don't think a firm's dues will be a profitable investment for them, we suggest they not join.

SPBA's target membership are the full-service TPA firms who offer a comprehensive array of services to several client plans/employers. By "full service" and "comprehensive", we do not mean that they have to offer every kind of service to every kind of plan. We simply mean that they offer a variety of services normally contracted to TPAs.

You might say. "We're mainly interested in networking & marketing in SPBA". That brings up another unique aspect of SPBA. Members view SPBA as a family, so they are adamant against anything that seems like "commercialism". Think how little it would take to offend you if someone came to your family Thanksgiving dinner and seemed to be networking or giving even a casual sales pitch. That's how little it takes to alienate TPAs if someone is perceived as using SPBA for anything with the slightest hint of "commercialism". This is not a rule handed down from the SPBA office. This is a philosophy deeply held and enforced by the TPAs themselves. So, you do NOT want to even think about trying to join SPBA with any dreams of selling.

The feeling of anti-commercialism is so strong that sometimes an entity will call us. It probably qualifies as a TPA member...but another part of the company markets something to other TPAs. Frankly, I recommend that even though the TPA function is eligible, they will hurt themselves by joining, because the other TPAs see them as a competitor TPA (and thus don't want to do business with them).

I'll bet you're not surprised to learn that we have no exhibits or hospitality sponsorship at our meetings. Even vendors who "just happen" to be in the same hotel during our meetings are viewed like the plague. There are also no ads or similar opportunities in our publications. So how can you market to TPAs? Simple. The grapevine among TPAS works VERY well. If you make one or two TPAs happy with your product or service, the word spreads very quickly. (Remember that each TPAs is different, so don't assume that what works for TPA #1 will automatically work for TPA #2.)

What about associate or supplier membership? What about those Stop-Loss? SPBA does not have associate or supplier memberships. There is a unique situation with Stop-Loss which relates directly to the need for TPAs & Stop-Loss to understand the same plan regulations. Sometimes a TPA would say, "the plan needs to do...", and the Stop-Loss would say, "I've never heard of that before." So, for smooth plan administration, Stop-Loss Service Partnership was created for the sharing of technical data. It is a partnership for a unique shared need...not an associate membership.

This is the newer definition of a TPA for membership purposes:

"SPBA welcomes all TPAs whose business will be enhanced by the services SPBA provides.  SPBA recognizes that the term TPA is widely applied to very different sorts of functions.  SPBA wants TPAs to be in the association(s) most useful to their type of work, so SPBA attempts to be candid in helping firms achieve that goal.

SPBA Membership is designed for TPA firms that provide on-going comprehensive-service for client employee benefit plans and employers, predominatntly using self-funding and often regulated by ERISA.  SPBA's services are greared to the federal regulatory compliance requirements in these areas.  Because of great differences in state-by-state licensing or regulation, determination of what constitutes being in the TPA business is necessarily based on available facts and circumstances."

If you are interested in becoming a SPBA member, click the "Contact Us" button in the upper right hand corner of this screen and request an application form.  You will receive a reply within a relatively short period of time.