Many experts are speculating that benefits enrollment will increase this year due to the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
With increased participation, you’ll want to have a well thought-out plan to make sure benefits enrollment goes smoothly. These six strategies will help you prepare.
1. Start early
When you can start early – ideally, a year in advance – you have increased flexibility to explore plan options and a broader network of providers. More choices mean more opportunities to find plans that better meet your employees’ needs and stay within your budget.
An early start will also give you time to interview vendors, get cost quotes and consult with stakeholders in your company to make decisions. These decisions are not quick or easy to make, so a year lead time is optimal for multiple reasons.
2. Develop an employee communication plan
Benefits enrollment is, by nature, a sensitive topic. Employees often feel intimidated by the complex options before them. Forecasting what they can afford and what plan will meet theirs and their family’s needs may feel overwhelming.
Developing a solid communication plan is just one way to remove stress from the whole process for both you and your employees. Your plan should help answer common questions and ease anxieties.
To start, develop a printed piece or internal website that includes:
- A comparison list of what in-network and out-of-network physicians and hospitals are covered
- A side-by-side comparison of premiums, contributions and/or deductibles for each option
- An FAQ section that answers common questions
- An explanation of any changes from the previous year and any actions your employees may need to take
From there, create a communication schedule to remind employees of the benefits enrollment period.
Let them know one month ahead of time when annual enrollment is coming. Then, a week before enrollment begins, send out another reminder. Use email or printed posters depending on what works best in your work environment. Using today’s technology, you could even use a text message notification system, if needed.
3. Explain annual changes
If your company is making annual changes, be sure your employees understand:
- What they had
- What they’re gaining
- What they’re losing
- What actions need to be taken from there
For instance, say your employees have enrolled in long-term disability coverage for a nominal contribution. But for next year, you’ve decided to remove this option for cost containment. This might affect your employees’ decision to continue coverage. Therefore, you need to help them understand how they’ll be affected by this change.
In this case, it could be explaining the actions your employees will need to take to maintain this policy on their own. You can help your employees by providing contact information of an agent who can answer their questions or a brochure that explains all their options.
4. Hold an employee meeting
One of the best ways to introduce year-to-year changes is in an employee meeting. Introducing changes in this way helps employees feel valued because you’re dedicating the time to provide information about what’s changing and what their action items need to be.
A face-to-face presentation by someone who is knowledgeable about the plan helps to ensure employees are getting the right information, even if they didn’t take the time to read through enrollment materials.
This also provides a chance for employees to ask questions that are relevant to them, and allows other employees to gain additional insights from their colleagues’ questions. While other employees may not have thought of the same question, the same response could apply to them in one way or another.
During the employee meeting, you’ll want to provide your employees with the contact information of a designated person within your organization who can provide support and answer questions that arise post-meeting.
5. Take advantage of technology
Whether it’s through fillable-forms or a robust online system, the best experience for the administrator and the employee is online benefits enrollment.
On the administrative side, this streamlines the process so the data entered by employees is ready to go directly to the insurance provider. It eliminates the possibility of incomplete forms, which could create administrative headaches as you have to track down employees to get forms completed.
For the employee, enrolling online can help to simplify the process, especially when a robust online benefits enrollment application is used. It can help guide employees through the process, saving time and reducing stress. For example, a wizard within an online system might help employees determine when they can add dependents or when they cannot.
6. Monitor enrollment
Enrollment deadlines are often non-negotiable. If missed, employees may have to wait for a qualifying life event (e.g., marriage, divorce, death or birth) to occur, or they may need to wait for the next open enrollment period.
Missing an enrollment opportunity can have a significant negative impact on the life of an employee, especially if they get sick or injured and don’t have insurance. So, it’s important for you to be diligent in your communication.
Monitor enrollment and touch base with employees who aren’t enrolled as deadlines approach. For example, you might say:
“I’ve noticed that you’re not yet enrolled. I just wanted to make sure that you don’t miss this opportunity if you need it.”
At times, employees don’t need to make any changes to their current plan, or they might receive insurance through other means, so there’s no action needed during an open enrollment.
However, especially in a new enrollment scenario, you want to make sure every employee has been given every opportunity to take action so they don’t miss the non-negotiable deadlines.
Breeze through benefits enrollment
Insperity’s full-service HR solution, Workforce Optimization®, includes a comprehensive online benefits enrollment system to ease the enrollment process.