Insurance One Management, Inc.

Smooth Sailing: Prepare For Open Enrollment Now:

In Employee Benefits on September 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Open enrollment can overwhelm even the most seasoned benefits manager. But the time when employees can make changes to their benefits plans doesn’t have to be a time of stress.

In fact, open enrollment is a great opportunity to introduce new tools and resources to a captive audience, and it’s the perfect time to help employees become better healthcare consumers all year long.

Here are some tips for making the best of your open enrollment season.

  • Focus on communication. Change is a big deal, so you need to develop and implement a strategy early to prepare employees for what’s coming. Employees need time to digest information, and you need time to reinforce it on a regular basis. Deploy a “multi-channel” communications campaign spread over time. Use a strategic combination of print, Web, email and face-to-face communication at open enrollment meetings to drive a consistent message. While it’s important to communicate thoroughly and introduce new ideas, don’t overload employees. Strike the right balance in what, how and when you communicate.
  • Anticipate a rush. The most diligent of employees will call on the first morning open enrollment begins. Plan accordingly by having the necessary staff in place to anticipate an upsurge in calls. But don’t slack off, because 75 percent of all enrollments are done in the last three days, due to procrastination.
  • Select reasonable enrollment deadlines. Make sure you’re giving employees reasonable business-related deadlines.  This approach will also give you the opportunity to remind them the day before and reduce the likelihood of a last-minute stampede. Setting deadlines on a Friday, a holiday or at midnight will only invite problems.
  • Be available. Even if you have provided self-service options, people still like to talk to a live person during open enrollment. Set up and review a set of FAQs that cover what are likely to be common questions.
  • Personalize. People relate much better to examples relevant to their situations than to abstract concepts. It helps to provide testimonials from other people in similar circumstances or to offer tools that allow employees to model and make decisions based on their own circumstances.
  • Be honest and direct. Are costs increasing? Benefits shrinking? Be frank. At a minimum, ensure employees fully understand the “5 C’s of enrollment”—cost, coverage, changes to plans, comparisons to the previous year’s plans and current options. Be clear with employees on the actions they need to take.
  • Expect “pushback.” In response to continued double-digit healthcare cost increases, you may be preparing to communicate aggressive health benefit changes to employees. If so, expect noise. Think of it this way: If all is quiet, you haven’t done your job.

Collect the wisdom

This year’s enrollment information can help you properly plan for the next open enrollment period. Did employees sign up for plans that offered more choice? What were the questions, snafus and bottlenecks? That’s powerful information for future action. Gather data to help you learn about employees’ desires and predispositions—by job title, region, etc.—as well as to determine what your team can do better next time.

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The information presented and conclusions within are based solely upon our best judgment and analysis.  It is not guaranteed information, but is intended to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.  It does not necessarily reflect all available data, and is provided with the understanding that we are not rendering legal, accounting, or tax advice.  Any web links/addresses are current at time of publication but subject to change.  This material is being reproduced with the permission of the publisher via a paid subscription by Insurance One Management, Inc. dba Don Crawford & Associates, Midland, TX.

©2010 Smart’s Publishing – Employee Benefits Report – Volume 8, Number 9 – All Rights Reserved. – Website: http://www.smartspublishing.com

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