Open Enrollment for Health Care: A Guide For Businesses
As the year's end approaches, businesses need to start preparing for one of the most crucial periods in their corporate calendar, the open enrollment period for employee health care benefits. Ensuring that your employees have access to health care is not only an essential ethical prerogative but also has tangible financial benefits for the company.
However, the process of open enrollment can be an intricate and time-consuming one, often leaving companies struggling to get everything sorted before the deadline. This guide will explore the basics of open enrollment for health care benefits and provide practical tips for HR managers and executives to enable a smooth and successful enrollment process.
Understanding Open Enrollment
Open enrollment is a designated period when employees can enroll in their company's health care benefits. It usually lasts for a month, usually between October and December, and allows employees to make choices regarding their health care benefits for the upcoming year.
During the designated period, employees can choose their health care options, including selecting new coverage, making changes in their current plan, and changing the amount that they contribute towards their premiums.
In the same way, employers may find themselves in a place where they need to make adjustments to their plans, contributions, or carriers to stay competitive. Because the renewal isn't typically available until 60 days before the renewal date, this can often cause a lot of unwanted stress on the company staff and executives. This is why careful planning is imperative.
After the enrollment period is closed, employees are locked into their chosen plan, premium, and coverage design until the following year's open enrollment period with a few exceptions.
Know Your Company's Requirements
HR managers and executives often bear the responsibility for creating a roadmap for open enrollment that meets the company's budget and fulfills employee expectations. To ensure that the company is offering the best health care coverage, it is vital to review employee feedback and satisfaction survey results from previous years before confirming health care offerings.
In addition, many companies opt for flexible health savings strategies, such as a health savings account or high-deductible health plans, to ensure that employees can use the coverage that suits them best while also maximizing any tax advantages they see fit. Employers must ensure that they over communicate these offerings to their employees to make the selection process easier.
Where you're being supported by your broker consultants or not, it's imperative that you have an annual service calendar that breaks the whole process into smaller more effective education opportunities throughout the year so you don't try to take it all on in the 60 days leading up to your renewal.
A good consultant will have already thought through this and provided a detailed and personalized plan that outlines a month to month communication strategy.
Host Information Sessions
To support employees during open enrollment, companies can host information sessions that explain health care options and answer employee questions. This helps employees understand the available packages, the differences between different types of coverage, and get commonly asked questions addressed.
These information sessions can also be used to communicate deadlines, the format of the enrollment process (i.e., online, paper forms), and the resources available to employees during the enrollment period.
Communicate Open Enrollment Period
An essential aspect of open enrollment is the communication of the process. HR managers need to create a comprehensive communication plan to ensure that employees have proper information about the open enrollment period and how to enroll.
This communication plan could include emails, in-person meetings, post cards, micro sites, decision support tools, videos, and onboarding sessions. It is essential to communicate the deadline so that employees can make their choices before it's too late.
HR departments can also use further communication to motivate employees to consider and select options carefully, explaining the value of health care benefits to employees.
Consider Enrollment Technology or Decision Support Tools
The open enrollment process is also made easier when supported by technology. Many companies are now using decision support tools or benefits enrollment software to enable a smoother enrollment process for their employees.
These tools help identify the right plans for employees based on their needs and usage, making it much easier to understand the differences in coverage options. They can also provide information on costs, and alert employees about changes in their benefits. HR managers can use these tools to manage the entire enrollment process from one central location with ease. And who doesn't like that?
The best part, is that in many cases, the carriers will provide technology credits for these systems that cover the cost entirely, or make the expense nominal. I am a huge believer in moving in this direction to save employees and employers a ton of time, money, and headaches.
Monitor the Process and Analyze Results
After it all, you should take a look back and assess how things went. Especially since open enrollment involves a considerable amount of effort, and it's crucial to track results and analyze data to see outcomes and improvements. Tracking enrollments, monitoring changes to enrollees' health care selections, and surveying employee feedback can help identify positive and negative aspects of the process.
HR managers can use this information to adjust the enrollment process in subsequent years, improving the process's efficiency and effectiveness.
Although the open enrollment period can be a demanding process for both HR professionals and employees, careful administration and planning can make it a successful and smooth process.
As an HR Leader or Benefits Manager, ensure that the company's planning timeline aligns with the chosen enrollment window. Show employees, different options available, and communicate resources available to ensure employees have the opportunity to select health care choices that align with their health care requirements and preferences.
If you've experienced a poor open enrollment or are looking for a more proactive renewal process or communication strategy, please reach out to me below and I'll provide you with a complimentary strategy assessment and 12 month service calendar.