September and October are historically the busiest months for Plan Sponsors preparing their annual applications. Review the following tips and resources from CMS’ RDS Center to assist in a successful Application Submission Process.
There are several things a Plan Sponsor can do to ensure a solid start to the Application Submission Process. Keep these four main tips in mind when preparing an annual application:
1) Know and Communicate Your Application Deadline. To participate in the RDS Program, Plan Sponsors must submit a timely annual plan application prior to the expiration of the Application Deadline. An RDS annual application consists of both a Valid Initial Online Application and a Valid Initial Retiree List. The Valid Initial Online Application is submitted by completing Steps 1-8 of the Application Submission Process, and the Valid Initial Retiree List is submitted in Step 9. The Application Deadline is approximately 90 days (adjusted for Federal holidays and weekends) before the Plan Year Start Date selected when the Plan Sponsor started a new application. After a new application is started, the Application Deadline displays on the Application Status page in the RDS Secure Website. Common Application Deadlines can also be found on the Important Application Deadline Information page on the RDS Program Website.
A Plan Sponsor should verify the key players in its application submission activities know the deadline. The Account Manager typically oversees application activities. This individual may take responsibility for facilitating communication among the parties involved to make sure they understand when they must complete their assigned tasks. The RDS Secure Website users required for application submission are the Account Manager, Authorized Representative, and Actuary. In addition to these users, Plan Sponsors may also assign Designees to assist with certain tasks, or a Vendor may be assisting with activities such as submitting the Valid Initial Retiree List in Step 9.
Note: The Actuary is the only individual who can attest the application, and the Authorized Representative is the only user who can submit the Valid Initial Online Application in Step 8.
2) Verify User Accounts are Active. Federal Security Regulations require RDS Secure Website users to log in to the RDS Secure Website every 180 days to maintain an active user account. If a user does not log in every 180 days, the user's account will be disabled due to inactivity. Before beginning the Application Submission Process, verify that all key players’ user accounts are active. Users such as the Authorized Representative may only need to log in to the RDS Secure Website on occasion to complete a specific task; however, CMS’ RDS Center recommends maintaining an active account at all times to ensure there is no delay in application activities. The Account Manager and Authorized Representative must have active accounts to submit an application, and the Actuary must also have an active account to attest an application. Don't let a disabled user account hold up the process.
Refer to Enable Your User Account for tips on maintaining an active account and instructions to enable your account if it is disabled.
3) Ensure Email Addresses are Current. CMS' RDS Center's official means of communication to the Plan Sponsor is through email. It's important to make sure all individuals involved with the Application Submission Process have valid email addresses on record with CMS' RDS Center. RDS sends email responses to support requests, Application Deadline reminders, registration invitations, and notifications specific to certain tasks. For example, when a Valid Initial Retiree List is submitted, CMS’ RDS Center sends an email when a Retiree Response File is available for review. If no beneficiaries could be validated on the Initial Retiree List, CMS’ RDS Center sends an RDS Initial Retiree List Failure email. While this scenario does not impact meeting the Application Deadline, RDS cannot approve the application until a valid retiree list is verified. This can delay moving forward with completing Payment Setup and submitting payment requests.
RDS Secure Website users can update their email address at any time using the Manage User Information link. Refer to Manage User Information for instructions.
In addition to keeping a valid email address on record, users should ensure that messages sent from RDS email addresses are not blocked by any SPAM filters or Blocked Senders Lists.
4) Understand the Paths Through the Process. The steps of the Application Submission Process do not need to be completed sequentially. Plan Sponsors can save time by considering the various paths through the process. For example, while waiting for the Actuary to attest the application in Step 4 or working with the Pharmacy Benefit Manager to decide Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Methods and Sources for Step 7, the Plan Sponsor can record banking information in Step 5 and define Payment Frequency in Step 6. Learn about the different paths you can take by reviewing Expedite the Application Process in the September 2014 RDS webinar recap article.
The RDS Program Website offers many instructional resources to help Plan Sponsors participate in the program. The following tools are especially helpful during this busy application season:
- RDS User Guide: This is a comprehensive resource for participating in the program. The following sections are geared toward application submission:
- Start a New Application: Provides step-by-step instructions for starting a new application.
- Complete the Application Submission Process: Offers instructions for completing each step of the Application Submission Process.
- Request an Application Deadline Extension: Provides instructions for requesting one 30-day Application Deadline Extension in the RDS Secure Website. Note: This feature is only available prior to the expiration of the Application Deadline.
- Options After a Missed Application Deadline: Explains the options a Plan Sponsor has for participating even if the Application Deadline was missed.
- Common Questions: This section of the RDS Program Website offers answers to frequently asked questions about important program topics. The following topics cover popular questions a Plan Sponsor may have while submitting an application:
- Top Plan Sponsor Questions: Find answers to questions such as How do I know the Application Deadline was met? and I submitted a Valid Initial Retiree List, but Step 9 of the application is still showing as incomplete. What do I need to do?
- Annual Plan Application: Learn the answers to application questions like How many applications can a Plan Sponsor have? and What is the Plan Sponsor Agreement?
- RDS Welcome Kit: This resource applies to new RDS Secure Website users. Review the RDS Welcome Kit to get acquainted with the program and role-specific tasks. The kit offers a list of Top 5 Things to Know, a User Roles Support Tool, and role-based Quick Start Guides.
If you have questions or need additional information, contact CMS' RDS Center.