Open enrollment is coming and probably quicker than you had hoped. It’s that time of year that many HR professionals dread, since traditional group plan enrollments, along with the sometimes unorganized chaos that ensues when coordinating every employee, complicates things. But preparing your employees now and well before open enrollment begins can help lighten the load and just make the company process more efficient. Today, we’ll offer three key ways to do just that. After all, open enrollment shouldn’t be a dread or feel like wrangling cats.
1. Define What Open Enrollment Means for Your Company
Open enrollment season means it’s time to get the entire staff to think about their health insurance, which can be a tall order. There are typically strict timelines in play, regardless of the type of benefits platform your company offers. And here are the basics to help you prepare for what your company needs to do this season.
General Open Enrollment Timelines
Open Enrollment for 2022 begins November 1st and remains open until December 15th in most states. Some states have or plan to extend their deadlines, so it will be important that you verify your company’s operating state timelines. Begin your preparations for open enrollment by marking those dates on your calendar and informing your staff about the approaching window. Get them thinking about their health insurance needs now and provide an open-door policy of communication to help answer any coverage or pricing questions they may have now.
The Group Plan Process
If your company offers a traditional group health insurance plan, your process is likely contingent on your broker’s responses to next year’s rates and offerings. You’ll also need to identify the various coverage options you plan to offer, that may include new disability plans, vision, or dental provisions. Whatever your group plan looks like in 2022, now is a great time to inform your employees of any changes or updates that differ from this year’s plan. And prepare yourself for the actual enrollment process to take up to two to six weeks to complete, depending on the scope and size of your company.
The ACA Marketplace Process
If your company benefits platform includes options for employees to enroll in ACA Marketplace coverage, open enrollment affects them, too. For those businesses that offer an ICHRA, for example, proof of individually initiated coverage is required for eligibility. So even if you’re not offering a group plan, you’ll want your teams to enroll within the timeline of open enrollment, as well.
2. Preparing for Employee Changes
If everyone had the exact same health coverage needs, budgets, and pricing, open enrollment would be easy since everyone would be able to essentially keep the same coverage. But that’s not the reality. And preparing for open enrollment means also preparing your company and your employees to address any changes. Insurance can be complicated, especially given the last year or so of pandemic conditions that perhaps created even more confusion about health coverage overall.
Why Open Enrollment Exists
Open enrollment exists for a few reasons. The primary reason behind its existence is to level the playing field of enrollees for the insurance providers. Insurance companies have to invest more in those plan premiums than they end up paying out in claims. This means that having everyone, healthy and sick, enroll at the same time helps to reduce those risks of processing sick-only claimants. But not getting your teams ready for this process will translate to uninsured staff who may have to wait until another open enrollment period to jump onboard.
Life-Changing Events to Consider
Part of preparing for open enrollment means coaching your employees to reassess their health insurance needs. There are life-changing and qualifying life events (QLE) to consider. Now is the ideal time to remind team members who maybe got married, moved, had a child, or experienced a divorce to re-evaluate their coverage options, heading into 2022.
Special Enrollment Periods
Should any of your employees miss this open enrollment period, there are some opportunities to enroll later. For example, don’t worry about anyone who is hired outside of the open enrollment window. They will be granted a special enrollment period as new hires. But also, if existing employees experience any of those qualifying life events, they too will be afforded another enrollment opportunity.
3. Making the Open Enrollment Process Easier
The goal should be to inspire every eligible employee to take advantage of whatever health insurance plan or benefits platform you offer. There are a few key steps your HR Managers can be taking now to help streamline the overall process and ensure any hesitation or concerns are addressed.
Some companies use the few weeks before open enrollment to get feedback from participating staff members about insurance coverage. You can use anonymous surveys to help gauge how your employees feel about their current coverage situations and costs. These can also be helpful to identify any new areas of concern that might prohibit individuals from asking questions or pursuing enrollment altogether.
Bringing in a Benefits Specialist
Some businesses, due to the size alone, need to bring in a little extra help for open enrollment seasons. An independent benefits specialist can help serve as a liaison between your HR department and your employees to help facilitate onboarding and enrollment efforts. These specialists can also uncover any challenges and help with streamlining the overall process.
Partner with W3ll
If your organization is looking to explore options beyond the traditional group health plans, let W3ll introduce you to cost-saving alternatives, including the ICHRA. Our ACA Marketplace services are free to individuals who need to enroll, as well. Preparing for the upcoming open enrollment period might just include a call to us!
Open enrollment doesn’t have to be tedious or stressful for yourself or your HR managers. Consider some of these steps in identifying, communicating, and engaging with your staff to help you prepare for a seamless enrollment experience. And when you’re ready to talk ICHRAs or have questions about other solutions, contact W3ll!