October 7, 2019
We hear the groans. Open enrollment is always around the corner, or so it may seem. We’ve got some tips in five easy-to-follow-steps.
1. Plan around your workforce demographics.
This is especially important if you have a diverse workforce. Employees’ needs and interests can vary with their life stages.1 Younger employees, for example, have different expectations than older co-workers when it comes to their health benefits. Employees with spouses or families may need different types of coverage. Some employees may live in neighorhoods where they aren’t close to urgent-care centers.
Consider hosting a round-table discussion to learn more about employee needs. That can help you ask for information from your health plan carrier that employees will find relevant and useful. And it will help you be prepared to talk honestly with your employees about their health plan and how to use it.
2. Communicate in ways that make sense to your employees.
Think about the best ways to reach everyone working at your business. Memos and emails might not be the answer.Your employees may prefer want face-to-face communication. Try meetings, or lunch-and-learns, or even sessions when family members can attend. After all, sometimes a family’s “chief medical officer” is not the person who’s employed and subscribing to your health plan. Then follow up with emails or mail information to their home addresses.
Once the new plan year starts, will your employees know how to use their benefits and get questions answered? Keep communicating as you did during open enrollment. This will help your employees get the most value from their benefits. Sharing information at other company events – such as a flu shot clinic or picnic — may help reach people in another setting and prompt questions that they didn’t ask when they signed up for a health plan. Your health insurance broker may be able to help. Ask!
3. Follow regulations.
This is the fine print but absolutely a must as you plan for open enrollment. Make sure you stay compliant with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and, if it applies to your business, the Affordable Care Act by filing annual information returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and provide required notices to your employees. Those include a summary plan description, summary of benefits and coverage, and uniform glossary.2
4. Ask for help.
It’s closer than you think. Look to your health insurance carrier for health plan materials and education. Ask what they’ll do to help your employees after open enrollment, too. Your broker may also provide administrative support.
5. Start planning for next year.
Keep talking. We can’t stress this enough. Ask for employee feedback right after open enrollment. And ask your broker for a post-enrollment appointment to get their perspective.
Then, consider your organization’s goals and consider if you need to adjust your offerings and employee education. After all, a successful benefits program can pay dividends in productive, loyal employees. And you’ll have a head start on next year.
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1. Kerekes, Laura. “8 Best Practices for Open Enrollment Communications.” SHRM. 29 October 2015
2. Rook, David. “Stay Compliant: Notices to Include in Your Annual Employee Benefits Open Enrollment Materials.” 7 September 2016.