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7 Tips for Setting Clear Expectations During Open Enrollment

7 Tips for Setting Clear Expectations During Open Enrollment

Many people love a surprise, but surprises related to health insurance and other employee benefits are not usually well received. Open enrollment is a prime opportunity to not only help employees with their insurance needs, but also to provide them with the information that they need regarding coverage changes, when they should receive their ID cards, and other concerns. This is not a time to wing it, having a well-structured plan is the best way to approach employee benefits. As a result, your staff will feel more confident and relaxed while your employees will be better informed.

 

1. Give ample notice of the open enrollment period with a timeline and plan.

Let employees know well in advance when the open enrollment period will begin and how long it will last. A checklist or planner will help them prepare and seek assistance if needed. Include information on coverage needs and budget constraints, any changes to the current plan, comparisons to other plans, and be available to answer questions.

 

2. Create a list of potential questions and answers.

If you anticipate certain questions, assemble them with their answers in a handout that you can provide in the employee benefits packet prior to the beginning of open enrollment. Include information for contacting you to discuss the specifics of their own situation. This can also be used by your staff to help them prepare for fielding questions.

 

3. Provide usable information that employees can apply to their own circumstances.

It is okay to compile more general information for employee packets, but when talking to employees individually, you want to speak to their specific situations. Give them information that they can apply to those situations that they can actually use.  A person’s work environment has a significant impact on how they receive, process, and use information – and the type of benefits they need, so keep that in mind when you meet with them.

 

4. Structure your messaging to be transparent and informative.

Just as coverage can change from one enrollment period to the next, so can people’s needs. Maintain a practice of transparency about coverage changes and cost increases while providing vital information on the benefits. Helping employees identify key features that fit their own unique needs means providing a lot of information. Calculators and tools that allow for comparing plans are very useful for this purpose. Avoid passive enrollment and help employees get the coverage that they actually need.

 

 

5. Identify different employee groups and create packages that speak to each one.

Employees who are nearing retirement have needs that are different from employees with growing families. Look for specific target groups within the organization such as young singles, single parents, and empty nesters, then structure your packages to meet each group’s unique needs. This is also a good opportunity to introduce ancillary benefits like life insurance, disability, and illness and injury plans.

 

6. Be prepared to field benefits questions.

Preparation is absolutely vital when discussing benefits with employees. You should have all necessary tools and information on hand so that you can access it quickly and easily. The process of discussing and selecting coverage should be accomplished quickly and easily.

  • Educate your team on messaging and preparation.
  • Structure messaging to address why benefits are set up the way they are.
  • Highlight the organization’s big picture benefits strategy and how it all works to the employee’s advantage.
  • Find value points such as promoting retirement savings or encouraging wellness measures through the use of the benefits.

 

7. Don’t overcomplicate it.

Employees are smart but can get overwhelmed with complex messaging. Keep it as simple as possible.

  • Provide visual aids such as charts and infographics, as well as decision support tools, information packets, and checklists.
  • Choose several key messages to highlight. This allows employees quickly see what they need to know, but still provide access to all details that they can review at their leisure. Being drawn into an exhaustive explanation of benefits may cause them to glaze over.

Remember: The objective is to help employees choose the best coverage for them, so keeping the message clear, simple, and brief is a best practice.

 

The opportunities that are presented to you during open enrollment are priceless. You can use this time to not only help employees get access to health benefits or upgrade their benefits, you could be the motivation they need to take charge of their health and take better care of themselves and their family.

 

Download our free ebook 8 easy steps for your best enrollment season ever for more useful tips.

 

 

 

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Permission Given by HHS to Renew Policies

 Last week (Nov. 14, 2013) the White House announced that insurers will not be required to meet most of the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) if they renew individual or small group policies that were in effect on Oct. 1, 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concurrently sent a Letter to all Insurance Commissioners that provides additional details on the waiver. Essentially, coverage that does not meet the “insurance market reforms” that are scheduled to take effect in 2014 may still be provided for renewals with policy years beginning between Jan. 1, 2014, and Oct. 1, 2014. All newly issued policies must meet the PPACA requirements.

Because states have jurisdiction over insurance, state insurance commissioners must approve any extension. While most are still reviewing the situation, several states have said they will not permit extensions. In addition, insurers are encouraged but not required to retract previously sent cancellations and provide coverage that does not meet the 2014 requirements, and at this time it is unclear which insurers (if any) will choose to offer current coverage into 2014.

If an insurer chooses to reinstate previously cancelled policies and renew others that are not PPACA-compliant, it appears that the renewed policies will largely follow the current rules.

However, according to the HHS letter, these renewed policies will still need to meet a few of the new requirements:

  • Limit eligibility waiting periods to 90 days (as of the start of the 2014 plan year)
  • Remove pre-existing condition limitations for adults in the group market
  • Satisfy the health non-discrimination rules (which includes the wellness program rules)

Newly issued policies will need to meet all of the PPACA requirements starting in 2014.

The HHS letter only addresses individual and small group policies, so it appears that insured plans in the large group market and self-funded plans will still be required to meet all of the PPACA requirements, including the out-of-pocket limit, maximum waiting period, pre-existing condition limitation prohibition and dollar limit prohibition, as of the start of the 2014 plan year.

There are many unanswered questions, including whether an insurer may provide the option to renew current coverage only to certain policyholders, whether new rate filings will be required (or allowed), whether state laws that now include PPACA requirements would be violated with the extension, and how feasible reversal is so late in the year.

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