University Relations and Communications

New Certificates Available Through Public-Private Partnership

February 12, 2015



Kevin Nemeth, MSUB Extended Campus, 896-5872
Carmen Price, University Relations & Communications, 657-2266


In response to the workforce demand for self-funded Insurance plans, MSUB partnered with EBMS and the Health Care Administrator Association to offer career development for one of the fastest growing segments of the employee benefits industry. 


“Responding to the workforce needs and demand of Yellowstone County and the greater Montana region is a fundamental priority of MSU Billings. It’s about creating and maintaining access and excellence for both our students and the community” — Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Mark Pagano 


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings Extended Campus is responding to Montana’s growth of self-funded healthcare insurance plans with a new program that offers certification and professional development for self-funded insurance management.


“Responding to the workforce needs and demand of Yellowstone County and the greater Montana region is a fundamental priority of MSU Billings,” Provost Mark Pagano said. “It’s about creating and maintaining access and excellence for both our students and the community.”


The courses and certification are focused on the self-funding benefit model and its associated national regulatory Employee Retirement Income Security Act framework. The program is designed for a range of skillets  including individuals looking for a career change to employees already working in Human Resources or the insurance field.


Self-funding is one of the fastest growing segments of the employee benefits industry and is expected to continue growing under the new Healthcare Reform law, according to the Society of Professional Benefit Administrators. About 65 percent of employers use self-funding for health plans, up more than 6,000 percent from a decade ago, according to its recent studies.


“This unique program focuses on industry specific workforce training and helps bridge the gap between current educational offerings and skills needed by companies that manage self-funded insurance programs,” said Extended Campus Director Kevin Nemeth. “It will help our local employers attract and retain a talented workforce.”


The skills and tools taught as part of the program stem from a partnership among MSUB Extended Campus, Employee Benefit Management Services and the Health Care Administrator Association.


Melissa Lyon, EBMS’s executive vice president of human resources, said the partnership between MSUB and EBMS “makes business sense.”


“We have open positions that we can’t find the skilled labor to fill,” she said. “It goes back to growing your own and developing your own talent. And that is what we are taking a look at. We are going out to our communities to see what we need from our university system.”

Developing curriculum and the skilled labor needed through the university system is considered best practice, Lyon said.


Consisting of two program options, instruction will ensure that students understand the key technical components of self-funding insurance with both third-party administrators or employers offering the health plan options.


The first option is an online, self-paced certification program composed of seven courses offered through HCAA, which when successfully completed culminates in the award of the Certified Self-Funded Specialist certificate awarded by HCAA.


The second option combines online courses through HCAA and in-person sessions and support from EBMS professionals in Billings. Participants earn upon completion the Self-Funded Benefits Professional certificate awarded by MSU Billings Extended Campus and the HVAA certification.


The registration deadline for the second option is March 9. The first cohort’s orientation date is March 12.


Once students have graduated from the program, they can apply for a professional practicum, potentially serving as a pathway into a career.


The practicum is a 48-hour experience over an eight-week period.


Nemeth said the program also compliments the two-year Human Resources associate degree program offered at City College.


Employers interested in participating in the practicum program should contact MSUB Extended Campus at 896-5872.


For more information:

»»  Program Flyer


»»  Program Website