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Top 10 Open Enrollment Pitfalls to Avoid

With annual open enrollment fast approaching, and the added stress the COVID pandemic has created, employers are looking for ways to head off delays or disruptions so that employees can focus on maximizing their benefit elections.

Employees are paying closer attention to their benefits, and employers have an opportunity to educate employees like never before. Trying to accommodate the needs of a diverse workforce, in a short timeframe against the backdrop of increasing options, bewildering regulations, a largely remote workforce and during a national pandemic, can be a challenge even in the best-run companies. Avoiding mistakes is impossible but learning from them is not.

Although the list may be limitless, here are ten of the most common pitfalls during open enrollment and how to avoid tripping over them.

  1. Ending Open Enrollment Outside of Standard Office Hours

    Employees who procrastinate will inevitably have last-minute questions and may experience technology predicaments. Make sure your open enrollment deadline falls during the workweek and during normal office hours when your HR department is still on duty to help them through the final steps in the process.

  2. Overlooking Additional Decision Makers

    Often, your employee is not the only one making benefits decisions. Ensure the communications you are using reach other heads of household and main decision-makers such as spouses. Extend invitations to open enrollment meetings to the entire family.

  3. Offering A Short Open Enrollment Window

    Most enrollments require dozens of decisions about health plans but also regarding that of other insurance products and services. Don’t force employees to rush through important decisions such as the naming of beneficiaries and determination of appropriate earnings to direct into Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)s, Health Savings Accounts (HSA)s and 401(k)s.

  4. Focusing 100% On Technology

    Today’s multigenerational workforce spans five generations, all of which have different preferences and capabilities when it comes to technology. While it is perfectly acceptable to move your entire enrollment online, it will be in your best interest to augment your digital employee communication efforts with alternative, non-technology media.

  5. Electing a Passive Enrollment

    An employee’s life situation can change significantly year over year and running a completely passive open enrollment program may force them to miss the opportunity to reevaluate their benefits decisions. While a passive enrollment is simpler to administer, an autopilot approach to benefits enrollment simply isn’t in keeping with today’s migration to consumer-driven healthcare.

  6. Not Optimizing Your Online Enrollment System

    Adjusting your system to maximize performance and outcomes should be an ongoing exercise. Make your platforms as easy and intuitive as possible. Guide educated decision-making and adopt best practices such as opt-outs vs. opt-ins, product bundling, pre-populating data from prior enrollments, personalization and more.

  7. Ignoring Voluntary Benefits

    Today’s modern employees place value on more than just their medical, dental and vision benefits. While other benefits offerings such as Short-Term Disability (STD), Long-Term Disability (LTD), FSAs and HSAs might require more education, it’s time well spent. Illustrating how accident and critical illness insurance works well with an HDHP will go a long way in helping employees understand if a benefits selection is right for them.

  8. Not Demonstrating the Value of the Benefits Program

    It’s best not to assume that your employees know how competitive your benefits program is. If your employer contributions to medical premium, health reimbursement arrangement (HRA)s, and HSAs are greater than your competitors, then that is something that should be highlighted. The same goes for dental, vision, disability, life and more. If you are paying most or the entire cost of premium, remind your workforce annually of how competitive your benefits package is.

  9. Forgetting Total Out-of-Pocket Costs

    When comparing medical plan options, don’t focus solely on copays, coinsurance and deductibles, but rather on total out-of-pocket expenditures, including the cost of premium. This is critically important if you are offering an HDHP as a medical plan option as it will suffer in comparison if you don’t take this approach.

  10. Not Funding a Health Savings Account (HSA)

    Nothing incentivizes an employee to enroll in an HDHP more than an employer making contributions into a Health Savings Account. It’s also a great way to ensure that an employee takes the steps necessary to open an HSA. Furthermore, making HSA contributions contingent on participatory or outcomes-based wellness activities is also an excellent way to incentivize desired behaviors from employees.

Avoiding these pitfalls and careful planning will help create a successful delivery strategy meant to engage and reinforce the value of the benefits you provide.

For additional strategies and best practices in conducting open enrollment during a post-pandemic environment, visit OneDigital’s Open Enrollment Hub.

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