Open Enrollment 2022: Everything You Need to Know
72% of employees say having more work benefits will increase job satisfaction. However, many HR professionals dread company open enrollment, often citing it as chaotic and unorganized. If HR isn’t looking forward to the open enrollment season, how will they motivate their workforce to enroll in benefits in the first place?
We asked ourselves this same question as we saw HR professionals struggling with open enrollment nationwide. So, we decided to put an end to HR’s open enrollment struggles once and for all. To make this process easier, we pulled together our best open enrollment tips for employers.
What is Open Enrollment?
Open enrollment is the period when people can enroll in a health insurance plan. It happens yearly, usually in the late fall. However, you’re eligible to enroll outside of the open enrollment season if certain life events occur, such as marriage, childbirth, loss of health coverage, etc.
How Does Open Enrollment Work?
Once employers receive insurance rates from their brokers, they plan a health insurance enrollment period. Next, employers initiate the open enrollment process and work with their employees to enroll in a health insurance plan for the year. Insurance open enrollment can also include vision, dental, and disability plans. This process usually lasts between two and four weeks.
Once employees make their selections and the health insurance open enrollment period closes, employers must communicate those changes to the benefit providers. Then, employers either send physical paperwork or electronically transmit benefits information to the brokers.
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 invest more 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 ill individuals sign up for health plans simultaneously. This process minimizes the risk of sick-only signees.
What is The Open Enrollment Period for 2022?
The 2022 health insurance enrollment window begins on Monday, November 1, and most states have slated it to end on Wednesday, December 15, 2022. Usually, if you don’t enroll by December 15, you can’t get coverage unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. However, Healthinsurance.org expects some states to have later enrollment deadlines available. Coverage starts on January 1, 2022.
What Happens if Employees Miss Open Enrollment?
If employees miss the employer open enrollment period, they will more than likely wait until next year to sign up or make changes. However, if they cannot wait, employees can enroll in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace if they are eligible for Medicare or CHIP benefits.
If an employee experiences a qualifying life event, they can change their health insurance outside of open enrollment. However, employees need to make their selections during the open enrollment period to ensure they have the appropriate coverage during the year.
How do I Make Open Enrollment Easier?
Open enrollment is usually a stressful season for both employers and employees. To make this process easier, consider reviewing your benefit offerings before open enrollment starts. You can conduct an employee survey of existing benefits to see where employees need help the most.
You can also leverage a benefits specialist on your employees’ behalf. Specialists who understand various benefits can reassure employees of different offerings. Benefits specialists create a win-win scenario since the more employees you enroll, the greater the tax break for your organization.
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Essential Employer Open Enrollment Tips
Once you understand employer open enrollment requirements, the next step is preparing for open enrollment. Here are some open enrollment tips for employers, so you can make it a smooth and efficient process for everyone.
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. Encourage your employees to consider any health or relationship changes that occurred during the year before making benefits selections. Use this time to discuss any changes and steps needed to make informed elections.
If you’re using an HR software or intranet, offer all benefits information in electronic form. Some HR solutions even offer PDF templates for letters, checklists, and guides to make the process more paper-free.
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.
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. Managers need to be concise throughout the open enrollment process to avoid confusion and chaos:
Provide Clear Details
Send an open enrollment announcement to employees, so they know what to expect in the coming weeks. Employees typically want to know four things when it comes to benefits options:
- Why do I need coverage?
- Which features fit my needs?
- What values does the program provide?
- How much is this going to cost me per paycheck?
Keep it Simple
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, make all related benefits documentation available to your employees to answer their questions.
Use Available Resources
If your benefits brokers offer employee-facing resources like handouts and FAQs, make those available to your staff. You can even provide employees with a glossary of benefit terms and acronyms to reference if they have any questions. If they still need help understanding coverage options, make yourself easily accessible.
3. Implement an Open Enrollment 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 more active in employee benefits enrollment? Use a targeted strategy for open enrollment communication with your employees. Here are some ideas you can include in your communication plan:
How Do you Engage Employees During Open Enrollment?
So, how can an employer be more active in employee benefits enrollment? First, use a targeted strategy for open enrollment communication with your employees.
We’ve put together a list of tips you can use to engage employees during open enrollment actively. Consider layering these ideas into 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. This communication method is also helpful when sending open enrollment reminders to employees. 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 employee questions. This page can also include required notices to employees during open enrollment, so they are always in the loop.
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 them when looking through available plans.
4. Utilize an HR Provider
Thinking about everything that you need to do to get ready for open enrollment can be stressful. However, 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:
Online open enrollment provides a simpler process for employees to elect and update their benefits selections. Staff can log into an employee self-service site and follow guided prompts that walk them through their plan options and costs. Some HR solutions even offer instructional information during each step to help employees make their choices.
HR software also assists in managing open enrollment requirements for employers. This automation reduces manual processes for managers, so you focus more on your workforce and less on paperwork.
Some HR providers offer benefits enrollment through carrier connections, enabling you to submit paperwork to benefit providers electronically. This secure approach to benefits administration eliminates duplicate data entry and the potential for errors. It also improves employee service by eliminating paper forms and enrollment reports for carriers. Here’s what a typical carrier connection process looks like:
- An employee completes online open enrollment in employee self service.
- The HR manager reviews the pending elections for any changes needed.
- Once approved, those benefits selections update on the employee’s record.
- The updated information is then synced to the benefits provider and updated in their system.
The great thing about this process is you can communicate accurately and immediately to carriers. Send employee changes directly to carriers and avoid missing future enrollments. Using an automated process to submit benefits paperwork also ensures you will not miss charges for terminated or ineligible employees. Reducing missed charges results in additional cost savings.
An essential part of managing your company benefits is COBRA administration. Certain providers offer COBRA administration and even have compliance experts on staff. COBRA administration can help mitigate compliance risks, track qualifying events, and meet coverage requirements. When used in conjunction with online enrollment and carrier connection tools, you can create a streamlined benefits administration process.
In its simplest form, COBRA administration requires four essential compliance components:
- You notify all eligible group health care participants of their COBRA rights.
- You provide employees with timely notices of COBRA eligibility, enrollment forms, duration of coverage,
- and payment terms.
- You collect premiums, reinstate coverage, and supply appropriate notices if premiums are not received.
- You provide timely notices when COBRA coverage ends and responding to individuals seeking coverage who are not eligible for COBRA.
Fortunately, payroll and HR providers can help. Certain providers offer COBRA administration to help you mitigate compliance risks, track qualifying events, and meet coverage requirements. Some even have teams of experts on their staff.
With an HR provider, you can automate paperwork and streamline compliance in a single system, saving you time and energy. You can even combine COBRA administration with carrier connection tools and online open enrollment to streamline your entire benefits process.
Instant Employee Access
Whether they’re checking their pending elections or accessing current benefits information, self-service tools give employees instant access to their benefits information. Regardless of where they work, employees can log in, view open enrollment messages, and make updates to personal information. In addition, employees can view different plans and enroll in the ones available. They can also look into coverage types and manage their dependents.
A streamlined benefits process supports employee initiatives while saving your workforce time. Many HR providers even have desktop and mobile app versions of their self-service platform. This accessibility on the go makes it easy for employees to view their benefits. Mobility is convenient when employees are at a doctor’s appointment or visiting the dentist.
How Do You Manage Open Enrollment?
If your process is manual, consider learning how we can help you today.
Start Preparing for Open Enrollment Today
Now is the time to start planning for open enrollment. When you follow the open enrollment tips for employers 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 open enrollment tips for employers so they can have 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, which simplifies plan tracking and management. This includes medical, dental, life, and disability plans. With Carrier Connections, you can 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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