Last week, we took a deep dive into open enrollment, and the 20 open enrollment trends your business needs to know for 2020. This week, we’re going to detail all the things employers need to know as they prepare for 2020 open enrollment. So, keep reading to find out what 11 topics you need to include on your 2020 open enrollment checklist.
Your 2020 Open Enrollment Checklist
1. Examine Last Year’s Open Enrollment
Before addressing any 2020-related news or changes, every employer needs to review how last year’s open enrollment went. Meet with your enrollment team, as well as any critical internal or external stakeholders, to determine what did and didn’t go well during last year’s open enrollment. This review will help your organization avoid repeating mistakes and ensure this year’s open enrollment runs more smoothly than the last.
According to Employee Benefit News, your open enrollment team should first identify the most time-consuming tasks from the previous year and determine how you can streamline them in the future. Second, establish which questions your employees asked the last year – and prepare your team to answer these questions, this year.
Finally, review your company’s open enrollment checklist goals from the previous year and determine whether you achieved your desired results and what contributed to those results. When you can address what went well and what didn’t in the previous year, you give yourself a head start on planning for the next year.
2. Plan Ahead
Your employees are only in open enrollment for a small period of time. But for benefits managers and HR professionals, planning for open enrollment should be a multi-month process. Employers or benefits managers need to create an open enrollment plan with a detailed timeline. It’s important to note this plan needs to tie into your firm’s overall benefits strategy.
For example, employers should analyze how their employees actually use their benefits to determine if any benefits offerings are missing the mark or not. You must know how your employees are utilizing their benefits, so you can improve the plan when possible. Your open enrollment plan should also include how your organization is going to communicate to employees during open enrollment.
3. Create a Communications strategy
As mentioned above, your open enrollment plan must include a detailed communications strategy. You need to know how, when, and where you’re going to communicate plan details to employees both during open enrollment and throughout the year. It’s key your benefits communications occur throughout the year rather than just during the open enrollment season.
Your employees need to understand both the deadline and the process for open enrollment, as well as the implications missing this open enrollment window would bring. They should know whether their existing coverage will roll over, if they’ll default to a specific plan/level of coverage, or if they could end up with no coverage at all.
4. Know Your Calendar
It’s vital your HR professionals or benefits manager get to know your open enrollment calendar intimately. Any and every task you need to accomplish during the season should have a specific due date on your open enrollment calendar. The open enrollment season is busy for virtually everyone. So, make sure you keep track of all your important tasks and deadlines through your open enrollment calendar.
5. Be Proactive
According to a recent Aflac survey, 90 percent of employees report they roll over their same health plan year over year. But you must understand this tendency toward repetition doesn’t correlate with employee plan satisfaction. Usually, this kind of rollover occurs because employees are intimidated about what they don’t know, are confused, or simply don’t care.
Offering, or even requiring, one-on-one meetings with benefits consultants during open enrollment gives employees a platform to discuss their individual needs and determine whether they’re choosing the best coverage for themselves and their families. One-on-one meetings with a benefits professional provide employees with the chance to ask specific questions they may otherwise be too embarrassed to discuss or bring up.
6. Use Your Colleagues
Unless you’re an HR department of one, it’s vital you lean on your co-workers during the open enrollment season. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a weakness. Plus, open enrollment involves and relies upon virtually every department in a given organization. So, it’s imperative you get every department on the same page prior to the beginning of open enrollment.
7. Review Your SPD
Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) are one of the best references for plan information, including how the plan works, what it covers, and what participants’ rights and responsibilities are under the policy. That’s why, in addition to compliance, it’s necessary your SPD is up-to-date, and easy to both access and understand.
One method employers are using to boost engagement with their SPDs is to make an interactive SPD. These interactive SPDs can include such functions as calculators, links to important definitions, fillable forms, and videos. Additionally, an interactive SPD linked to data analytics can report which sections employees are engaging with, and which ones they’re skipping over.
8. Utilize Technology
Technology in today’s world is as ubiquitous as water or getting in political fights with anonymous people over the Internet. Despite technology’s ubiquity, many employers have been slow to adopt benefits or HR technology that could drastically ease their open enrollment process. So, if you’re still managing benefits with pen and paper, look into how benefits technology could help your firm.
Using an online platform allows your HR professionals or benefits administrators to reduce or eliminate the use of such paper forms, written memos, and printed materials. This technology doesn’t remove any person’s role; rather, it eliminates the busy work these people would otherwise be inundated with.
9. Include all Demographics
Today’s workforce is more diverse than it has been at any other point in American history. So, when creating your open enrollment strategy, make sure you plan to communicate with different demographics, differently. For example, many older workers prefer paper, whereas younger employees likely prefer mobile communications.
Still, it’s as essential to look at employee groups from the perspective of their priorities, level of education, work experience, and healthcare literacy in addition to their demographics. For example, employees focusing on planning for retirement have drastically different priorities than those focusing on reducing their student debt. Similarly, employees just starting their careers likely need more support through open enrollment than seasoned workers who have been through the process many times.
10. Emphasize Employee Education
One of the most important actions any employer can take during open enrollment is to educate your employees. A study from UnitedHealthcare found 77 percent of employees felt prepared for open enrollment, but don’t let this statistic deceive you. The same study found most employees spend less than three hours researching prospective health plans.
Similarly, 42 percent say they devoted less than an hour, and 29 percent say they spent between one- and three-hours researching plans. What’s more, a recent survey by MetLife discovered approximately 45 percent of workers say they’re apprehensive about the open enrollment process. So, whether your employees, believe it or not, they likely need some education about their benefits.
11. Help Employees Make Smart Healthcare Decisions (Year-Round)
As stated above, employee education is a necessity. But this education can’t occur only during or slightly before open enrollment. Your firm needs to have a year-round employee education plan to ensure your employees have available resources to support their healthcare choices. And open enrollment is the perfect opportunity to make employees aware of these available resources.
Such programs as benefits advocates, or transparency services, provide employees with valuable resources to compare prices, answer questions, and get second opinions. When used together, these services can lower out-of-pocket costs for employees and decrease the overall healthcare spend for employers. So, make sure you communicate these services to employees during open enrollment. Your employees should know how these programs work and how they can help them throughout the year.
We here at The Olson Group know how scary employee benefits, and especially open enrollment can be. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Use this open enrollment checklist to make sure your organization stays atop of open enrollment this season. And, if you need any extra help, make sure to contact The Olson Group, today!