Having gone through benefits renewals with employer groups of all sizes over the years, I have seen firsthand the importance of a well-planned and thoughtfully executed open enrollment.
Although the selection of benefits is a necessary step to prepare for open enrollment, there are a multitude of other aspects that are just as important. Many employers are under the impression that they have the open enrollment process down, but a recent study revealed that about 41% feel the open enrollment process at their company is extremely confusing.
As a result, only half of all employees are very confident that they made the right decisions during their last annual enrollment. Not only is this a problem for your business, but it’s a costly problem nationally. Experts estimate the cost of low health literacy in the U.S. costs insurers and employers approximately $4.8 billion each year.
So, what leads to a successful open enrollment? How do employers change the way they approach open enrollment to empower employees?
Here are 10 action items to transform your open enrollment from a confusing and hectic time to an efficient and positive experience for your workforce:
Start Planning Early
Creating a renewal timeline mid-way through the benefits year will help keep your team and your employees on track throughout the months leading up to open enrollment. Having deadlines available can help you work backward to decide appropriate timelines. For some organizations, starting a year in advance is necessary. For others, 2-3 months will do the trick. As always, the earlier you can start this process, the better.
Be Aware of Benefits and Law Changes
Keeping up with the ever-evolving healthcare landscape is a necessary evil – especially when it comes to benefits requirements and communications obligations. Overlooking any one of these can result in serious fines for your organization. Need a little help in this area? View this recent webinar for relevant insights about open enrollment compliance: Open Enrollment Hiccups: Top 20 Compliance Issues.
Develop Communications That Address All Workers
When creating open enrollment collateral and communication pieces, make sure to use language that is clear and concise and set enrollment deadline expectations. As a best practice, ensure that your open enrollment communications strategy meets the needs of your workforce. Today, most workforces consist of five unique generations, and many employers have employees who work remotely as well as employees who travel frequently. Provide multiple opportunities to attend meetings and include virtual or recorded meetings as well. Make sure your workforce is able to access the meeting recordings from your company’s intranet if you have one. If possible, include the same information in your BenAdmin/enrollment system.
Highlight Major Benefits Changes
Avoid information overload. Your employees can only absorb so much information at once, especially when you consider this is in addition to their day-to-day projects and learnings. Start by highlighting the changes or additions to your benefits offerings since the previous year. Make sure to explain what was in place before, what employees gain with this change, what they lose with the change and what actions need to be taken from this point. You’ll be setting up your workforce for success and providing a thoughtful approach to benefits communications.
A recent study indicated that almost half of employees have trouble understanding the differences among different health insurance plan options. Examine your employee population to create several employee “profiles” based on the most prevalent groups. With this knowledge, you can provide a benefits plan comparison, laying out the benefits offerings that make the most sense for each group, based on utilization and cost-efficiencies. This tailored approach to educating employees will go a long way in helping them select the plan best suited for their needs.
Set a Clear Deadline Early
Share the enrollment deadline early and often. Give as much notice as possible and send consistent reminders employing a range of communication channels. Wherever you have information about your benefits offering, make sure the enrollment deadline is prominent. Commit to monitoring enrollment so that you can intervene and assist before it’s too late.
Share Employer Cost Information
Transparency is key. Today, employees expect to have access to their healthcare information, and that includes how and why your company’s healthcare decisions are being made. Schedule a slot at the beginning of your open enrollment meeting or recording during which the necessary stakeholders and leaders can provide background for how the healthcare decisions were made. When your workforce is empowered with a high-level understanding of the benefits being offered, they’re able to make better, more informed choices. They’re also more likely to understand the impact of their individual healthcare choices on the greater whole.
Take Advantage of Technology
The amount of paperwork involved in open enrollment is staggering. When you consider that each employee must make an election for every category of their healthcare options, it can make any plan manager’s head spin. Work with your benefits administration technology team to confirm the best time for an internal kick-off call and determine if you have the ability to implement open enrollment technology in time for your employees’ selection window.
Gear up For Post-Open Enrollment
Be sure to include a guide for what to do after open enrollment in employee communications. Cover details like what to expect post-enrollment and share what employees can expect to receive from carriers and vendors (i.e., if you offer an FSA or HSA and someone is enrolling for the first time – be sure they know to be on the lookout for communications/debit cards via mail). The same goes for Member ID Cards. Many carriers such as dental carriers do not send Member ID cards and many health carriers do not send cards if there is no plan change. Save time by setting clear expectations.
Follow Up With Carriers and Vendors
After open enrollment closes and data is transferred successfully, make sure to audit soon after to ensure there are no discrepancies between what you submitted and what was processed by the carriers. You can also take this time to check in on the delivery of ID cards and other items that your employees are expecting to receive to utilize their benefits.
When all is said and done, having a strategy in place to tackle open enrollment will be the difference between success and confusion for your employees. Make sure to build in the time necessary to accomplish each part and you’ll be able to provide a smooth experience for your organization.