Open Enrollment is that once-per-year opportunity for your employees to tweak benefits plans for the upcoming benefit year. But first, you will have negotiated plan renewals and laid out an open enrollment communication plan. Here are some tips and tricks to help you through this process.
Plan your work and work your plan. To help the process move smoothly, develop a plan to include all the tasks that need to be completed, by whom, and by when.
- To visualize how the process will flow, record all tasks on a month-at-a-glance calendar for easy reference.
- Know carrier deadlines for adds, drops, and changes.
- When establishing deadlines for employees to complete enrollments, consider the cut off for the first pay period that the new deduction amounts will be taken. Allow enough time to enter deductions into the payroll system.
There is a plethora of notices that ERISA and the DOL require to be distributed to eligible participants. These can be distributed in written form or in some cases electronically. Be sure to understand which ones you are required to provide. Notices depend on the type of plan and size of the group. A few examples include:
Medicare Part D CHIP
Special Enrollment Rights HIPAA Privacy
Women’s Rights COBRA Initial Notice
Summary of Benefits Coverage
Consult with your broker or benefits administrator for guidance on the requirements.
An effective communication plan is critical. Eligible employees must be given an opportunity to elect, discontinue or change elections during open enrollment.
Identify materials you will provide; enrollment/change forms, compliance notices, a summary of plan design changes, deadlines and other important information.
It’s a good practice to hold in-person or web meetings to present benefit plan information. Especially if there are plan changes. Typical changes could include deductibles, co-payments or out-of-pocket maximums.
If the benefits are being reduced, be empathetic but be honest. More harm can be done if an important feature is not communicated and later challenged by an employee.
If benefits are being enhanced, communicate the value so employees understand that the company is committed to taking care of its employees.
Send the message multiple times in multiple formats.
People grasp information in different ways. Some comprehend more by reading while others through listening. Provide a variety of communication methods for greater reach.
Welcome questions. Informed staff members should be available for employees to ask questions. Due to the nature of health conditions, some employees will want to do so in private.
Careful planning of your open enrollment season will reduce stress and make the process easier.