What exactly is a TPA or Consortium?
The term TPA stands for Third Party Administrator and your TPA is there to help you avoid liabilities. TPA services help DOT regulated employers and non-regulated employers stay on task and avoid flaws in their drug testing system that could lead to a damaging failed audit. In essence, a TPA is going to be your Drug-Free Workplace assistant and help you with any questions or concerns you might have about the effectiveness of your policy. Think of it this way; you probably trust an accountant with your taxes, right? If so, it is probably because you are not an expert in the tax field yourself. If you’re not a drug testing expert, you should trust your workplace program to a TPA or Consortium. They can bring all of the following to the table for your company»
- Liability Protection
- Employee Education
- Supervisor Training
What can a TPA NOT do?
- Employers are responsible for compliance. A TPA can ADVISE them on what to do, but at the end of the day it is going to fall on the employer.
- Determining reasonable suspicion falls on the managers or supervisors at the company. A TPA can provide them the training they need, but they can’t make those determinations for them.
- Employee follow-up testing programs are also on the shoulders of an employer. The Designated Employer Representative should determine when these tests are going to take place, the TPA is only there to remind them.
The best TPA’s are ALWAYS there for their clients. They’re there to answer any questions or concerns, and their technology can support all of the needs of your company. Before you hire a TPA, make sure you do your research and review their qualifications. You can’t afford to put your workplace policy in the hands of an amateur.
Welcome to the National Drug Screening video blog series. My name is Tom Fulmer. I am the vice president of business development and I will be hosting this series. You can find out more information on our website and by visiting our blog at www.nationaldrugscreening.com where we help employers and individuals better understand drug testing, drug testing policy and trends, and how to have a drug-free workplace. Today’s guest is Mr. Joe Reilly. He is the Pres. of National Drug Screening. He’s also the former chair of DATIA (The drug and alcohol testing industry association merged with NDASA in 2023) and a current board member. Mr. Reilly has been consulting in the industry since 1993.
TOM: The topic of today’s show is the third-party administrators and consortiums also known as c/TPAs. So, Joe why would companies hire a TPA instead of running a drug and alcohol testing program internally within their own company?
JOE: Well, Tom as you know the term TPA stands for third-party administrator and the DOT drug and alcohol regulations coined the term consortium/TPA or C/TPA. Now, the TPA is an overall entity that is offering multiple services that are required in the DOT drug testing program for DOT regulated employers. The TPA might also be providing multiple services for nonregulated employers. What’s important about using TPA as opposed to an employee managing all of those services themselves is professionalism, efficiency and really getting it done right. Also, preventing any exposures to liability.
The TPA is the professional that can combine the services of the specimen collection, the laboratory analysis, the review and the reporting by the MRO. Also, the computer software systems to report results, to house the results, moving forward by providing the employer with reports that they may need for the program and helping them manage a random selection and notification process.
TOM: Well, that is excellent. You touched on a several of the services that TPA’s offer. What are some of the other services that a TPA may offer in addition to managing the test itself that may be beneficial to companies?
JOE: Well, regarding the drug and alcohol testing programs. The TPA that is servicing both the DOT regulated employers and non-regulated employers provides a good list of services. But, again just like some of them that I’ve mentioned such as: the specimen collection, laboratory analysis, medical review officer, reporting and storing of results, MIS (management information system reports), random selections, random notifications, answering questions about the drug testing process, assisting with company drug-free workplace policies, employer education, supervisor training.
And, there is more. There are lot of services that the TPA can offer to the employer.
TOM: Are there any services or responsibilities that the TPA should not provide or that should only be done by the company?
JOE: Well, one thing that is important to realize for a DOT regulated employer; that employer is responsible for compliance. So, they are relying on a TPA to help them with compliance but they are not outsourcing that function of responsibility. So, the TPA will pretty much handles everything for the employer. There are couple of things that they do not do and cannot do. One, is making a reasonable suspicion the determination when someone is showing signs and symptoms of being under the influence. So, the TPA can provide the training and education so that supervisor in the company can make those determinations. They need to be made by the supervisor not the TPA.
Another one is in the follow up testing program which occurs when an employee has had previous drug or alcohol test results and they’ve gone through a rehab program with a substance abuse professional. That come back to work with a return to duty test. And now they required to have follow-up testing at a minimum of six test per year for one year up to five years.
The determination of the exact date and time of that follow-up test should be a function of the DER (designated employer representative) in the company not a function of the TPA. The TPA can remind the DER that follow-up testing should be done but the actual date and time should be determined by the company’s designated employer representative.
TOM: Excellent. So, if someone is looking to potentially hire a TPA or find the right one that is the fit for the company, what are things that they should be looking for to make sure that the TPA is a good fit for that particular company needs?
JOE: Great question. To find a good TPA that is a good fit for an employer and for their drug testing needs. The first thing that they should determine is if the TPA answers the phone. Can you get service from the TPA? Do they know what they’re talking about? Can they handle service throughout the United States? Do they have a good technology platform to report drug test results, alcohol test results and to store those results and to do to provide the appropriate reports back to the employer that they need including the required MIS reports (management information system reports).
Is the TPA knowledgeable about drug, alcohol testing and DOT regulations? Is it their main business? I would never advise a company to use an urgent care clinic or a medical care clinic as their TPA. Those facilities can collect urine, send it off to the laboratory and probably do a great job when somebody has a broken arm but I did not think they know much about DOT regulations.
Tom, a couple of the main things are once again, do they answer the phone? Are they knowledgeable? Aren’t they professional? Do they know the DOT regulations and set amount?
TOM: Excellent, thank you Mr. Reilly for joining us today and answering the questions about a C/TPA (third-party administrator). For more information on TPAs and what services they provide you can visit us at our website www.nationaldrugscreening.com. Also check out our blog for some great information. We also have a great search feature there. You can type pretty much anything that you are looking for about drug-free workplace programs, policies or anything related to drug testing. So, check back with us on our next video blog series. We have some great topics scheduled.