Open enrollment: A six-step survival guide

Back-to-school time means open enrollment time is just around-the-corner for employee benefit plans nationwide. For employer groups, this is the time of year for behind-the-scenes discussions about options and plan designs, which often leads to some “arm wrestling” between benefits managers and chief financial officers.

Savvy companies depend on knowledgeable brokers to provide local, personal service and deep industry expertise to help them though the process.

Here are six ways brokers and employer groups can collaborate for a successful process:

  1. Do a cost/benefit analysis. It’s not too early for employers to get a handle on how their benefits worked out last year. What was a good investment? Did the wellness program lead to productivity improvements? What were the “pain points” for employees and for the benefits department? For self-funded plans, did expenses align with expectations or did surprises arise?
  2. Look for innovation opportunities. To attract and retain employees, try some out-of-the-box thinking. Is this the year to add holistic care to the product mix? Or distribute fitness trackers to encourage wellness program participation? Consider adding telehealth options or retail health centers for added convenience at an affordable price.
  3. Be timely. Too many organizations paint themselves into a corner with indecisiveness, uncertainty and endless meetings … then hope for miracles from their carriers so there’s no gap in coverage. Brokers and employers do best when they develop a firm timeline and stick with it.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Four in 10 employees don’t understand their benefits. Open enrollment is the perfect time to develop educational campaigns that help employees engage in their health care, understand high deductible health plans, budget for health savings accounts, explore their networks and get a grip on pharmaceutical formularies. Consider decision-support tools like a plan comparison chart, a medical cost calculator, or an FSA calculator.
  5. Go digital. Two-thirds of Americans have smart phones, and many have eliminated broadband connections at home, relying on their phones instead. So it makes sense that a growing number of companies allow beneficiaries to enroll using mobile devices. Others have added a digital concierge service that uses speech recognition and cognitive computing to answer employees’ questions about health coverage and other issues.
  6. Plan for post-enrollment. There’s more to health coverage than an ID card, and employees should know it. It’s essential to help employees understand their wellness requirement deadlines, know where to find plan materials, and learn to comparison shop for health care services

American workers say health insurance is the most important benefit they receive from their employers. That’s why savvy benefit managers make sure their companies offer competitive choices that help their companies retain current employees and recruit new talent.

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