According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee benefits are available to 74 percent of American workers, which equates to a lot of work for HR professionals during open enrollment periods (BLS). However, with the right information, open enrollment doesn’t have to be stressful. With a better understanding of the process (and the right partners) your HR team can experience lower levels of stress and higher levels of efficiency during your next open enrollment.
Let’s look at the top 7 questions HR professionals have around open enrollment for health plans.
1. What is Open Enrollment?
Open enrollment is a period during the year, generally 2-to-4 weeks long, when companies allow their employees to make changes or additions to their elected fringe benefits such as health insurance, unemployment benefits or retirement plans.
2. When Do Most Companies Have Open Enrollment?
The open enrollment period differs for every company. If a company is on a calendar-year plan, benefits coverage often kicks-off January 1. This means open enrollment could start 1-2 months prior to coverage.
Keep in mind that some states have their own enrollment platforms for health insurance, so be sure to review your state requirements.
3. How Should You Prepare for Open Enrollment?
Getting organized ahead of time will help streamline your open enrollment process. You can do this by:
- Obtaining renewal numbers and rates from your carriers for the coming plan year.
- Analyzing costs and deciding to switch carriers or not early in the contracting process.
- Communicating with employees about any changes this year (especially pertaining to the Affordable Care Act) and preparing them for the open enrollment process.
It’s impossible to make smart decisions about benefits without data. Paycor’s HR software allows employers to access status reports to see the progress of the current open enrollment, compare coverage costs from different years and gauge how employee election trends from year to year.
4. What Should You Do During an Open Enrollment Period?
Collect all the relevant information from your employees.
- Update payroll with the new deductions.
- Notify your carriers of changes and new enrollments.
- Be explicit with your employees on when the enrollment deadline is.
Share details about the current plan so that employees can use that as a guide to make decisions as to what they will need in the new plan year.
5. How Can You Overcome the Common Open Enrollment Challenges?
- Go paperless. Why aren’t you starting electronically? After all, employers build their plans online, and their employees sign in to make their elections at home, in the office or anywhere. Paycor’s Benefits Advisor allows employees to view benefit plan summaries and other documents, receive updates on uncompleted enrollment tasks and review how their elections will affect their compensation. For this to work, it will be important to have an accurate record of each employee’s work and personal email address in order to enable access to the system.
- Eliminate unnecessary data entry. Once employees have made all of their elections, HR has to input all of the updated information into their payroll system, which poses the risk of human error. Since Paycor has a single system of record, which means no double-entry, we save you time and eliminate the chance of error.
- Enjoy seamless connectivity to carriers. After all the benefit election information is updated in your system, there is still the matter of notifying carriers. Paycor pushes enrollments directly to the carriers, so instead of having to update benefits in multiple places, you only have to do it once.
6. Is One Open Enrollment Conversation Good Enough?
According to a recent survey, 86% of employees are confused about benefits (Business Solver). To alleviate this confusion, employers must hold ‘benefit conversations’ throughout the year, not just during open enrollment. The topic of benefits is often complicated and very dry, so having a well-developed ‘benefits marketing program’ can help ensure your employees fully understand their options.
And that conversation should take many different forms. Since there are currently five generations participating in the workforce, one blanketed communication method won’t cover everyone.
Consider these additional ways to reach your entire workforce:
- Company intranet
- Posters and banners
- Paycheck inserts
If you’re sending out information electronically, make sure you have current personal email addresses on file so that employees, especially remote and non-office workers, can access the details of the health insurance plan at home.
7. As the Employer, What Am I Legally Required to do if an Employee Misses Open Enrollment?
The onus of enrolling in a benefits plan falls completely onto the employee to whom it is offered. If an employee does not sign up during the open enrollment period, they will not be able to be a part of the initial plan offering.
There are still options that could see them engage in the benefits offered by the company. That’s because there are special enrollment periods they could qualify for. These could include a life event, a change in their household income level or the loss of an existing health plan. One of these events usually triggers a 30-day window to enroll in the company’s benefits plan.
Employees also have the option of seeking short-term health insurance, outside of the company’s offered packages. These short-term plans will provide them with a health insurance plan if they missed the enrollment deadline. Short-term plans offer some flexibility to employees to enable them to get limited health insurance coverage.
Still Have Questions?
Listen to our recent Benefits Compliance webinar to help companies understand compliance requirements.
You may also want to take a tour of the Paycor Benefits Advisor program. It’s a robust, and easy to manage tool that can help take some of the headache out of open enrollment.