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September, 2020

How to Handle Open Enrollment: Tips for 2021

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How to Handle Open Enrollment: Tips for 2021

2020 has brought several changes to the way we do things. Football season looks different, and school is a combination of virtual and mask-covered faces. However, one thing remains constant. Many HR managers still struggle with navigating open enrollment.

The open enrollment process can be chaotic and unorganized for HR managers. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a list of FAQs, as well as some tips you can use to crush your open enrollment this season:

What Is Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment is the period of time when people can enroll in a health insurance plan. It happens yearly, usually in the late fall. You’re eligible to enroll if certain life events occur, such as marriage, childbirth, loss of health coverage, etc.

Why Is There An Open Enrollment Period?

Have you ever tried to sign up for health insurance to be told you have to wait for open enrollment? Open enrollment exists because health insurance companies have to take in more money in premiums each year than they pay out in claims.

For that to happen, providers must have more healthy members than sick members. An enrollment period ensures that both healthy and sick individuals sign up for health plans simultaneously. This process minimizes the risk of sick-only signees.

What Is The Open Enrollment Period for 2021?

2021 open enrollment begins on Sunday, November 1, and ends on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Coverage starts on January 1, 2021. If you don’t enroll in a plan by December 15, you can’t get 2021 coverage unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

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4 Tips for A Successful Open Enrollment

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1. Ditch the Paper Process

You might be used to offering seminars and one-on-one sessions to get documented benefit information into employees’ hands. While this is a beneficial way to communicate information to employees, in-person sessions and paper documents aren’t ideal during a pandemic. Most states have restrictions on the number of workers that can be present in one location. Meanwhile, several employees are working from home.
To navigate open enrollment efficiently this year, consider offering a virtual “benefits cafe. ” Invite employees to pour themselves a cup of coffee at home and listen in on a Zoom, Google Hangout, Webex, or Webinar meeting. Offer electronic guides, and discuss any benefit changes and steps needed to make elections.

Tip: Make sure to check the Department of Labor’s safe harbor guidelines for electronic retirement plan communications rules. Depending on employee preferences, you might be required to mail a paper copy of the open enrollment guide to select employees’ homes.

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2. Be Concise

According to Unum’s study, 22% of employees are confused during open enrollment, 20% are anxious, and 21% are stressed. Often, information overload causes confusion. After all, open enrollment has many moving parts, including choosing plans, communicating with employees, and fielding questions.

To avoid confusion and chaos, managers need to be concise throughout the open enrollment process. Keep emails about open enrollment short and sweet, and make sure the language you’re using is easy to understand. If you’re using HR software, provide employees with a glossary of benefit terms and acronyms to reference if they have any questions.

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3. Implement a Communication Strategy

Did you know, 35% of employees have little to no understanding of their healthcare coverage? Furthermore, 62% feel their employer doesn’t serve as a resource for their healthcare-related questions. So, how can an employer be active in employee benefits enrollment? Use a targeted communication strategy when notifying employees about open enrollment. Here are some ideas you can include in your communication plan:

Provide Surveys to Employees

Send out a simple benefit survey to employees. Segment the surveys based on qualifying life events such as job descriptions, salary, job location, age, number of dependents, marital status, etc. This approach will give you a better picture of what employees with similar lifestyles need. Then, recommend available plans that fit each lifestyle grouping. For example, a young, single employee doesn’t need the same benefits plan as an employee close to retiring.

Create a Chat Channel

You can do this with platforms like Slack, Skype, and even social media channels. One example SHRM has found particularly successful is having a Twitter chat, where employees can tweet benefits questions to HR. The entire thread is trackable through a designated hashtag, so other employees can easily find all the topics discussed.

Send Text Message Updates

Sending text messages with links to important information is another effective way to keep your employees in the loop. Some payroll and HR providers offer text message features so managers can schedule messages in bulk.

Consider FAQ Pages

Consider adding an FAQ page to your company website to provide quick answers to commonly asked employees questions.

Create Call To Actions

Create messaging with a specific call-to-action notifying employees of the next steps they need to take in the open enrollment process. Ensure the actions are bold and bright, so employees can’t miss it when looking through available plans.
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4. Utilize An HR Provider

Thinking about everything that you need to do to get ready for open enrollment can be stressful. There is no need to drown in mounds of paperwork or deal with endless communications streams to carriers. Consider using a payroll and HR provider to streamline your processes and get rid of the paper for good. Some benefits of utilizing an HR provider include:

  • Instant Employee Access: Employees can access their benefits information and make adjustments to personal information.
  • Accurate Data: Some providers offer automatic benefit updates to employee records, eliminating duplicate data entries.
  • Streamlined Enrollment: Online enrollments reduce manual processes for managers, letting you focus more on your workforce, and less on paperwork.
  • COBRA Administration: Certain providers have COBRA compliance experts on staff that help mitigate compliance risks, keep you informed, and provide enhanced reporting for future decision-making.

Start Streamlining Your Process Today

Now is the time to start planning for open enrollment. When you follow the tips we have provided, you can improve your employees’ overall open enrollment experience. With a streamlined communication strategy and paperless process, you’ll quickly and efficiently get information into employees’ hands. Meanwhile, an HR provider can help you gain peace of mind through employee benefit access, accurate data, reduced compliance risks, and carrier connections.

Disclaimer: This article intended to provide tips for a successful open enrollment process. It is not intended to provide advice on benefits offerings or legislation. APS does not provide ASO or PEO services. Our platform assists with benefits administration, open enrollment, carrier integrations, and COBRA administration. If you need assistance with evaluating benefit offerings and compliance with legislation, please contact your broker or HR consultant.

How APS Can Help

APS offers online benefits administration, simplifying plan tracking and management, including medical, dental, life, and disability plans. Our Carrier Connections lets us electronically transmit your benefits paperwork directly to providers, avoiding dropped benefits, and streamlining the approval process. Take your benefits administration a step further with COBRA Administration. You’ll have access to an in-house team of experts dedicated to mitigating compliance risks and keeping you informed.
Employees can easily view the costs of different plans and coverage types, enroll in benefit plans, and manage their documents all from their preferred electronic device.

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