Original Date: October 29, 2018

Open enrollment has started or will be starting very soon for many of our organizations.  As leaders, we need to assist employees in gaining insight into their benefits and changes to benefit plans; communicate any significant changes and ensure employees are making the best possible selection for themselves and their family members.  Open enrollment and understanding benefit changes can be confusing for any of us, especially if there are significant changes.  It is our responsibility to effectively communicate any changes or complexities during the open enrollment process.  Know your workforce and how to effectively communicate these changes.

The Open Enrollment Checklist:

  1. Be prepared to answer employee questions regarding any legal changes to the healthcare plan.  This can be an area of confusion.
  2. Make a list of anything new and exciting that will enhance your open enrollment processes. Effectively communicate these new and exciting benefits to the workforce.  Over communicate these changes, especially if they are significant.
  3. Consider online enrollment programs and software if you haven’t already. Allow time to implement these programs before your open enrollment period.  With any significant online open enrollment, comes training.  Train the workforce on how to use the online enrollment tools and programs, sit with employees and work through any issues or concerns.  Do not assume that every employee is computer savvy or will know how to use these systems.  Also remember website security, as we just watched 75,000 people’s identity get hacked on the Healthcare.gov website.  Security and data protection is a top priority, this should be communicated and emphasized.
  4. Maintain records of past enrollment employee questions, comments and concerns, preferred communication methods, trends in employees’ selections and other information that will help you better serve employees during open enrollment.  Questions to consider shown below:
  • “Has the employer’s prescription drug coverage changed?
  • What is the status of health coverage for my working spouse or children?
  • Are my preferred doctors and other medical service providers still covered?
  • Has the employer taken steps to make health care costs more affordable for me?
  • Has the employer changed administrators for medical benefits?
  • Is the employer offering new or expanded options for receiving care that might be beneficial to me?
  • Has the employer added new or expanded voluntary benefits I might find valuable?
  • Does the employer’s wellness plan have new features that can help me manage my health or save me money?
  • Has the employer added or expanded coverage for complementary or alternative medical services?
  • Has the employer added or expanded the use of technology for delivering and managing my benefits?”[i]
  1. Change benefit offerings before the open enrollment period to avoid rushing at the last minute and miscommunications.  Work with your benefit administrators to ensure efficient and accurate information.  Establishing a benefits committee internally to work through these changes is a great option for any organization.
  2. Survey employees on what they are seeking in terms of benefit offerings and any improvements they would like to see. Customize your offerings to your employee population.  Sample survey questions below:
  • Do you understand the health benefits that are available to you through the _____?
    • Do you know whom to ask about health benefits if you have questions?
    • How satisfied are you with the information on coverage options and plan changes you receive during open enrollment?
    • Which level of health insurance are you currently enrolled in? [Insert options]
    • What additional level(s) would you like to see offered? (Check all that apply.)  [Insert additional options]
    • How satisfied are you with the health benefit plan choices your organization offers (i.e. the different plans you get to choose at open enrollment)?
    • How satisfied are you with the group of doctors you can choose from under your benefit plan?
    • How satisfied are you with the range of services covered by your health benefits (i.e. preventive care; emergency care; eye care; available specialists; OB-GYN; chiropractic; etc.)?
    • How has your experience with [insert carrier] been?
    • What changes would you like to see in your benefit plans? Please note that some of these may increase premium rates.  Please check all that apply.
  1. Consider offering new benefits, even if they are 100 percent voluntary.
  2. Do not forget COBRA paperwork, if applicable.

Communication Process:

  1. Hold meetings with employees to review coverage options and changes.  These meetings should be open to spouses and should occur on first, second and third shift, to ensure all employees have the option to participate.  Offer information regarding benefits in various formats to your employees; email, health fair, bulletin board or Intranet tools.
  2. Communicate helpful phone numbers and websites to employees looking for additional resources.
  3. Be prepared to answer questions that employees asked most frequently last year.
  4. Create a frequently-asked-questions sheet with answers to distribute, post or email to employees.  This should be done prior to the open enrollment process.
  5. Provide answers to basic questions, such as how much premiums will increase, new coverage options, etc.  Keep this as simple as possible, benefits are complex we need to communicate this so all can understand.
  6. Anticipate complex questions regarding traveling outside of the country, FSA coverage and emergency issues.  Yes, these questions will be asked.
  7. Other considerations: open enrollment schedule, statement of current coverage, plan-specific changes and rates, plan-specific summaries, open enrollment booklet forms, deadline for open enrollment and all legally required information.
  8. Over communicate deadlines, with frequent reminders.
  9. Send a reminder the day before the enrollment deadline and follow-up directly with employees if possible.  Accountability in the process is necessary for the process to be effective.
  10. Remain available through various mediums for employees to contact with questions and clarification.

Post Enrollment and Beyond:

  1. Check enrollment forms for any missing information?
  1. Check enrollment forms for any information that was incorrectly filled out?
  2. Submit all enrollment forms to the carrier?
  3. Ensure that you are in compliance with any health care reform provisions that affect your plan and employees?
  4. Send a follow-up email to ensure all employees received their ID cards?
  5. Follow up and make sure all employees are clear about their benefits and don’t have any outstanding questions?
  6. Begin the communication process early for 2020 open enrollment and consider marketing additional benefits in June or July.[ii]

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[i] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/health-plan-questions.aspx

[ii] https://www.thehortongroup.com/annual-open-enrollment-checklist

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