MACo and MABE Form Collaborative Co-Op for Family Leave Benefits

MACo and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education have collaborated to form a new co-operative offering for members seeking to streamline the administration of family leave benefits under Maryland’s “Time To Care Act.” County governments are asked to indicate their interest soon, as the timeline for forming the co-op is necessarily brisk.

Maryland employers will soon be required to offer a prescribed series of family and medical leave benefits to employees – either by participating in a State-run insurance system (and paying an assessment as a percentage of payroll into that program) or by establishing an “Equivalent Private Insurance Plan” approved by the Maryland Department of Labor.

Recognizing the potential for this process to become cumbersome for county governments and similar public entities, MACo and MABE developed a framework for public employers to pool together to create a streamlined “plug-and-play” option. The MACo Board of Directors committed to the development of this collaboration following preliminary discussions with MABE and Bolton, serving as program administrators.

The potential advantages of joining a co-operative for these benefits include:

  • Increased market power in securing a vendor to administer benefits for the broad co-op membership
  • Avoid 15 months of pre-paying premiums before benefits become available (under the State program)
  • Reduced/shared administrative overhead costs in overseeing and managing the program
  • Security/simplicity of having one coordinated approval of plan structure and benefits for all participants

Counties are asked to indicate their interest in the co-operative by October 1, to enable the two lead organizations and their selected program administrator, MACo Corporate Partner Bolton, to advance the assembly of a request for proposals for one or more benefits administrators on behalf of the served population. The memorandum of agreement currently out to county leaders includes a general opt-out provision if, unexpectedly, the co-op fails to deliver on a reduced participation cost compared to the State’s eventual contribution rates – but experience from similar setups in other states suggests this model will deliver on its promise of lower ongoing contribution rates, in addition to avoiding the 15-month pre-funding period for employers joining the State-run insurance program.

Each county has received a simplified “statement of interest” document to expedite the count of anticipated adoption even in advance of formal action by the county governing bodies.

The tentative timeline for co-operative program development, designed to secure State approval of a plan structure before State contributions trigger on October 2024, is as follows:

  1. 10/1/23-11/1/23 – Data collection from participating entities
  2. 12/1/23 – RFP released by co-op administrator Bolton
  3. 3/1/24 – RFP due from vendors to oversee benefit administration
  4. 5/1/24 – RFP recommendation approved by participating entities
  5. 6/1/24 – Submit Opt-out application to DOL (or earlier if permitted)
  6. 7/1/24 – DOL approval

If your county is interested or has questions about the MACo/MABE co-operative for family leave benefits, contact MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson for further program details.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties