Open enrollment is an incredibly important time of year for both you and your employees. This is a chance to put together — or adjust — a cost-effective and useful health insurance plan that caters to as many of your employees’ needs as possible. Since the choices made during enrollment are locked in for the year, it’s important that you make the right decisions. To make sure this year’s open enrollment period is a success, here are the five most important tips to keep in mind.
Start Comparing Plans Ahead of Time
The health insurance industry has gone through some enormous changes over the past few years, and this could have a significant impact on your company’s insurance options. Beyond that, coverage requirements are also changing under the ACA. Plans must offer a minimum level of coverage to be compliant. With all this going on, you should start contacting your insurer as soon as possible so you’ll have plenty of time to review your options and won’t get caught off guard by any changes.
Determine What Your Employees Need Most
Your health insurance program is going to be a balancing act between what you can offer your employees and the cost of maintaining the plan. Your employees will appreciate as many benefits and options as possible, but any extra costs impact your bottom line and theirs. If you’re going to offer an option as part of your health insurance package, you need to make sure that it’s something your employees will actually use.
One simple and effective way to figure this out is to survey your employees before the start of enrollment. Give them a list of possible extra features in your insurance plan, such as a larger network of providers, a more generous copayment structure or a greater variety of plans. Let them vote on what they’d like to see, and you can design a program based on these choices.
Give Your Employees Time to Review
Once your plan is selected, gather employees to explain exactly what is changing from the previous year, including costs, benefits, network size, and anything else that may be changing.
The decisions that your employees make during open enrollment will stay in place for an entire year, so they need time to make the right choice so they don’t get locked into the wrong plan for them. Consider offering an extension of your company’s enrollment period for a few more weeks if employees are requesting more time to review. If for some reason you need to have a shorter period, give your employees plan information long before the enrollment period begins so that they still have enough time to thoroughly review their options.
Use Clear Instructions
Chances are that your employees aren’t insurance experts. If your open enrollment materials are full of technical jargon, your employees will be less interested in reviewing their options, be less likely to understand the plan features and might enroll in the wrong plan. You and your HR department should go over all documents and presentation materials ahead of time to make sure that they all use simple, understandable language. If there’s anything that you think is confusing, put together an extra explanation to make everything clearer. Your employees will appreciate this extra step, and it will help everyone make better financial decisions.
Consider Enrollment at Different Times of Year
Most companies schedule their open enrollment for the fall, according to the Orange County Register, so that their program is effective for the full upcoming calendar year. However, this can create an incredibly busy season for insurance brokers, so they might not have as much time to go over your plan options and give seminars to your employees.
Since there’s no set time for when you need to hold enrollment, you might want to set it up during the off-season, perhaps during the summer; that way, your company will get more personalized attention from your insurance company.
Putting together a successful open enrollment period takes a little work, but the benefits are worth the effort. By following this advice, you and your employees should be in good shape to put together an effective insurance program.
David Rodeck is a professional freelance writer based out of Delaware. Before writing full-time, he worked as a health- and life-insurance agent. He specializes in making insurance, investing and financial planning understandable.