It is that time of year again! It is currently open enrollment season! But what does that really mean for employers? In the following paragraphs, I explain what open enrollment actually means, and provide some helpful tips for employers.
What is Open Enrollment?
The open enrollment period is the one time in any given plan year that employees are allowed to enroll or change their benefit coverages that are available to them through their employer. Typical employee-sponsored benefits programs employers may offer their employees include medical, dental and vision, life and disability insurances. There may be additional ancillary benefits that employers may choose to offer such as pet insurance or flexible spending accounts; including medical, transit, parking, and dependent care. Outside of the open enrollment period, the only times employees are eligible to make changes to their benefit enrollments is when they are a new hire or when they experience a qualifying life event.
What’s the Purpose of Open Enrollment?
While an average open enrollment period for employees spans between one to two weeks, the behind the scenes planning for employers can last anywhere between three to six months. Open enrollment provides employers with an opportunity to review, evaluate and change the benefits offerings for the following plan year.
Every year, a company’s benefits plan is put out to market during RFP season. This allows eligible benefit providers to bid on the company’s plan in order to provide the most comprehensive and competitive benefits package available. If an organization is satisfied with the plans they currently have in place, open enrollment provides an opportunity for employers to negotiate gross premium rate changes and coverage levels. Once a benefits package has been decided on, open enrollment also provides an opportunity for employers to re-evaluate their employee vs. employer cost share. If there are gross premium rate changes, employers have the option to absorb the increased premium or pass the price increase onto employees.
3 Tips for Employers About Open Enrollment
Navigating and executing open enrollment can be challenging if you do not have proper processes and procedures in place. To help guide employers through the open enrollment process, here are three helpful tips:
1. Remind Employees When the Open Enrollment Period Is
The most critical part of the process is providing open enrollment communications for employees, reminding them of when the open enrollment period is and what benefits are available to them.
Collaborate with your benefits broker to create a benefits guide that provides an overview of the employee benefits plan and the pricing information. This guide should provide in-depth information about the health insurance plans and health coverage. This is essential so that current and new employees know what benefit options are available to them during the plan year and allows them to make an informed decision.
Employers should also provide a company wide presentation to review the new benefits plan as well as go over any changes that may occur for the following year. This presentation should be followed up with an email to the team as a reminder of the open enrollment window dates and should include a copy of the presentation, the benefits guide, instructions on how to enroll in benefits, and any other suggested updates that employees should address during this time. For example, open enrollment is a great time for employees to review their beneficiaries and ensure their dependent information is up-to-date. It is important to send reminder emails throughout the open enrollment period so employees do not forget to enroll in their benefits for the following year.
2. Ask For Employee Feedback About the Open Enrollment Process
Once the open enrollment period concludes, ask for employee feedback about the process. Do your employees feel as though they understand the benefits that are available to them? Did they find their enrollment process to be easy or difficult? By receiving this employee feedback, employers can help improve the enrollment process for future enrollments.
Benefits packages are designed to fit the needs of employees. However, as the needs of employees change over time, it is important to survey employees on what they are looking for in the benefits their employer offers. By soliciting feedback, employees have the opportunity to contribute to improvements in their benefit options.
3. Speak With an HR Consultant to Help With Open Enrollment
Navigating the open enrollment process can be quite challenging as it can be time consuming and have a heavy administrative burden, especially when you have your own job responsibilities. Employers, if you find yourself struggling to manage this process and need assistance in providing the most competitive and comprehensive employee benefits plan, you may want to speak with an HR consulting firm. An HR consultant, like myself, who is familiar with benefits administration will be able to assist you through the process. Contact us today!