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.
Here is a briefing on the basics of the AHCA and it’s potential impact to Employers and Consumers.
Interested in learning more, click the link below:
Yesterday, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was published and here is our analysis for what it means.
Here is some initial media coverage on the American Healthcare Act. We are working on a more detailed analysis that will be communicating it shortly.
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As the implications of health care reform become more apparent, large employers are increasingly grappling with coverage options to avoid the penalties. Over the past few months, there has been considerably more attention paid to the problems faced by the staffing industry and similar employers as these temporary and variable hour employees are generally common law employees of the organization, and ultimately such companies are on the hook as it relates to offering health coverage.
One option some employers are looking at is the offer of a “no minimum value plan” – this is a group health plan that provides medical care, but may not satisfy the 60% minimum value threshold. Granted, if an employer offers such a plan that is not minimum value, an employee may apply for a tax credit at the exchange and this could trigger a $3,000 penalty ($3,000 for any full-time employee that receives a tax credit), but this penalty would be lower than the penalty associated with not offering any health plan at all (the $2,000 penalty/every full-time employee).
These types of plans are starting to make their way into the market for just this reason – as a viable alternative to staffing companies and/or other companies that operate in a similar fashion. At the end of the day, it allows employers to satisfy the coverage requirement under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and avoid the hefty penalty associated with that option. So, it minimizes the risk financially. Also, if employees accept the “skinny” plan, they will not be penalized with the individual tax penalty currently in effect for not having coverage – in some respects, a win-win for both parties.
Some employers are using a modified version of this strategy. These employers offer employees two options: (1) a skinny plan, and (2) a richer option with a premium contribution cost that just barely meets the 9.5% wage threshold, which few low income employees are expected to take. This strategy enables employees to opt for the skinny plan that they can afford, while the offer of the richer option immunizes the employer from the play or pay penalties.
A third strategy is to simply offer the richer option and allow it to be unaffordable. For example, the plan could be offered on a fully contributory (i.e., employee pays all) or nearly fully contributory basis. This strategy avoids the “no offer” penalty, although the employer is still liable for the “unaffordable” penalty, but only with respect to those employees granted a premium tax credit.
Keep in mind, these strategies are aggressive. There are those who argue the skinny plans will not provide sufficient coverage to satisfy the “minimum essential” coverage criteria, but under the current regulations, it seems a possibility. Eventually, these plans may not pass muster, but for now there is nothing definitive against going this route so it is something to consider.
The Obama administration announced today that it will extend the deadline for the implementation of the health care mandate for medium sized businesses to 2016.
Employers with 50 – 99 workers are given a two year reprieve on offering health care to their full-time employees. Requirements for companies with 100 or more workers are reduced by 25%.
Larger employer (over 100 employees) are also seeing their requirement to offer health care to their full-time employees reduced from 95% to 70%.
The administration claims that stratifying the two phase-ins for businesses across America will ease the financial and administrative burdens for employers who have not offered health insurance benefits in the past.
The move today was well received by the majority of the business community. Most believe the postponements will allow employers additional time to understand the applicable rulings that will affect their businesses.
For the full Washington Post Article, click here