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How to Avoid Open Enrollment Nightmares 

By October 3, 2019 No Comments

It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means.

 

The grocery store aisles fill with candy, costume parties are everywhere, and monsters lurk around every corner…

 

That’s right— we’re talking about open enrollment.

 

As a broker or HR manager, you know that open enrollment is scarier than anything a haunted house could cook up! 

 

Deadline after deadline, cleaning pages and pages of data, fielding calls from employees and staying until 10 PM every night to get things straight.

 

You’re not the only ones who get stressed around open enrollment, though. Employees get stressed out, too, because they often don’t know what the differences are between health plans and have no idea what they should choose. They know that once open enrollment ends, they’re locked into whatever plan they chose for the entire year.

 

Talk about stressful! We see this all the time. Employees don’t understand their options and they often make incorrect decisions.

 

Why is this bad?

 

Well, beyond the fact that you want employees to have the best health care plans, studies have shown that overall employee perception of the quality of their employer is centered around benefits.

 

Even when pay is high, employees’ perception of the company will not be as high as it would be if they know they have great benefits.

 

Many employers have great benefits. But when you lack the time and tools to communicate that effectively to your employees, they don’t realize how rich the benefits are and their perception doesn’t change.  

 

So how do you avoid open enrollment nightmares and ensure that employees get both the best coverage possible and understand their benefits?

 

  1. Define your objective. Begin with the end in mind. Where do you want to end up? The CFO or owner might aim to lower the overall expense and improve productivity. Meanwhile, HR’s goal might be to help employees understand their benefits and simply accomplish open enrollment without enough staff. 

 

There can be different objectives at play, so it’s important to have everyone discuss and define them together. 

 

As you think about your objective, you’ll want to ensure two things:

 

  • It’s results-oriented. What exactly are you trying to do? Get a higher percentage of employees enrolled in a high deductible gap plan? Get people to put more money in their HSAs? Educate people in the wellness arena? Increase contributions to FSAs? Define the exact results you want.

 

  • Your methods are up-to-date. There are a variety of ways to communicate with employees. Know your audience, so you can connect with them in the right ways! Are they baby boomers, millennials, or generation Xers? These groups all have different needs, wants, and communication styles. 

 

Make sure you also understand the location and accessibility of your audience. For example, are your employees working in a factory? Do they travel? Are they home-based? If you’re trying to reach truck drivers (who are remote and on the move), you’ll need to communicate with them differently than you would with people who work right in the office.

 

  1. Launch a communication campaign that engages your specific population. There are many ways to get your message out that employers often don’t think of. Depending on your audience, this could include:

 

  • Newsletters
  • Emails
  • Mass texts
  • Mass voicemails
  • Memos
  • A website
  • Social media

 

  1. Customize your message and have clear communication pieces to support it. Materials like videos help educate employees in the office, while podcasts can share open enrollment information for remote employees who travel. Create a dedicated library of information about open enrollment delivered through all manners of support.

 

  1. Communicate a clear call to action. Will your open enrollment be passive or active? If an employee doesn’t have to take action, that’s passive enrollment. Remember that given the option to do nothing, that’s what employees will do. 

 

Your job is to ask: does this support our objective? 

 

Think about your call-to-action. Are there educational meetings you want employees to attend? What are the open enrollment dates? Do they need to update beneficiary information? Are you doing a dependent audit? What about spouse exclusions or the nicotine surcharge? 

 

Whatever your call-to-action, it should support your objective.

 

  1. Measure results. Measuring results against your objectives as you go through open enrollment allows you to see what’s happening on a daily basis. That’s how we work at BEST: we always know what’s going on and that way we can act accordingly. If there’s a pocket of employees in a department where no one has even logged in yet, we know that on day 2 or 3 as opposed to when open enrollment has ended and it’s too late. 

 

Tracking the results live means that you can adjust your methods if you see by day 3 or 4 that objectives aren’t getting met. Maybe you need a new message or a new communications strategy, or you need to speak with a department head about getting the message to her particular group of employees. If you wait until the end of open enrollment to notice that what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s too late. 

 

After you get through this year’s open enrollment, the best thing you can do to avoid a nightmare next year is to start educating employees year-round on their benefits. Instead of waiting until open enrollment to explain to employees what an HSA is and why they should maximize it, educate them in the middle of the year so they already know what to do when open enrollment rolls around.

 

We know this is a lot to process. 

 

If you’re still feeling the open enrollment dread, outsourcing to a strategic third party can help. 

 

A strategic third party like BeneChoice can simplify the process of open enrollment, reduce your cost, automate and track results, execute better solutions with a more tactical approach, audit for carrier discrepancies, handle eligibility management and offer year-round support. 

 

For third parties like us, we’re always in open enrollment. About 50-60% of companies renew their benefits in December or January, but the rest do it throughout the year. That means we deal with open enrollment day-in and day-out. 

 

At BeneChoice, we support over 1,000 clients with open enrollment throughout the year. So say goodbye to the monster in the closet and embrace a solution streamlined through technology that can get you the results you need.

 

To learn more about how BeneChoice can help you achieve your objectives and avoid open enrollment nightmares, click here.

Author Nash Skiles

More posts by Nash Skiles

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