Identify Your Workers’ Needs, Consider Costs before Open Enrollment

It’s almost time for group health insurance open enrollment and your top priority should be to drive participation by helping your employees make informed decisions about their options.

You’ll want to help your staff understand all of their options so they can choose plans that are best for their age, health and life situation.

This is an important exercise to ensure that any of your workers don’t pick a plan that costs them too much in premium if they rarely use their health insurance, or costs them too much in out-of-pocket expenses if they are frequent users of health care.

It’s a balancing act, since each employee has different needs. Here’s our advice for the open enrollment:

Listen to your workforce

Before you make any decisions, you should listen to your employees and better understand their needs and preferences.

With answers and feedback in hand you can create a benefits package that is more appealing to them, which in turn gives you a competitive edge when attracting and retaining workers.

Engage employees and solicit feedback through quarterly employee-benefits round table meetings. Invite employees from different age groups and different departments to participate in these meetings, to ensure you have a good cross-section of your staff represented.

Give advance notice

You can start now with simple reminders for them to start thinking about open enrollment and evaluate their current health plans. Send out memos and place posters in high-traffic areas.

If you start with this in September or October, they can have time to assess their options, particularly if anything has changed in their lives like marital status, new children or health issues.

Costs are paramount

You can work with us to settle on plan arrangements that will be within your and your employees’ budgets, and that comply with the Affordable Care Act’s affordability and minimum value rules.

Employees have a right to understand the costs they’ll be facing in each plan, including:

  • Their share of the premium,
  • Their deductible,
  • Their copays or coinsurance, and
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses.

Typically, the higher the premium on a plan, the lower the employee’s out-of-pocket costs are. The lower the premium on the plan, the higher the deductible and copays.

Get an early start

If your plan year starts Jan. 1, you should hold open enrollment meetings and dispense plan materials in October or November.

This will give your workers time to review all of their options and compare costs and coverages.

Communicate effectively

Your task is to get employees out of cruise control and truly assess all of their options.

This is especially true if you are making changes to cost-sharing, introducing new plans, or offer voluntary benefits, a wellness plan or health savings account or flexible spending account.

You should use a variety of different media to communicate with them. Use video, virtual and live meetings, e-mail communications, text messages and print materials to get through to your employees. Each generation will often have a preferred medium, so using a multi-pronged approach may be most effective.

Get spouses involved

If you also offer insurance to your workers’ families, you should communicate through your employees that their spouses are also invited to join your open enrollment meetings.\

You may also invite them to view any electronic material you may post online, like the aforementioned videos.

If they cannot make a general meeting, you can invite them to come in to meet with your human resources manager if they have questions.

Remind staff of the ACA

You can use open enrollment as a way to remind your workforce of their responsibilities to secure coverage under the ACA.

Let them know that employees that refuse coverage that complies with the ACA from their employer and opt to purchase it on a public exchange, will usually not be eligible for government premium subsidies.

The meeting

Send out meeting notices early to give your employees time to prepare and set aside time.

Try to make the meeting engaging with props, videos, printed materials and more. You may also want to consider recording the session so that staff who can’t make the meeting can watch it, particularly if you have employees that don’t work on-site.

Provide enough time for the main presentation, as well as for questions from your employees.

The takeaway

Open enrollment can be a hectic and stressful time for both the employer and workers. By getting a head start on planning and communications, you will be ahead of the game and your employees won’t feel harried into making a decision. That benefits both them and your organization.

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