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Identify Your Workers’ Needs, Consider Costs before Open Enrollment


It’s almost time for small group open enrollment and you need to drive engagement so that your employees can make informed decisions about their health insurance options. We want to help you help your employees understand all of their options so that they can purchase a plan that is appropriate for their situation. So here is 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 this month 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 (in their case, the plans also have to be deemed affordable under the Affordable Care Act). Employees have a right to understand the costs, so let them know how to access the free transparency tools provided online by most medical carriers. Provide employees with a breakdown of medical and pharmaceutical cost increases to avoid sticker shock.

Get an early start
If your plan year starts Jan. 1, you should hold open enrollment meetings and dispense plan materials in November or early December. It’s a busy time of year, and you want to give employees times to consider their options and plan for changes.

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, introducing 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 and print materials to get through to your employees. While the attentive ones may think it’s overkill, using different forms of communication ensures that you reach the widest number of staff.

Get spouses involved
If you also offer insurance to spouses, you should communicate through your employees that they are also invited to join your open enrollment meetings. You can 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 Affordable Care Act. Let them know that employees that refuse affordable coverage from their employer and opt to purchase it on a public exchange will usually not be eligible for government premium subsidies. Ask us about the most frequently asked questions about the ACA and we can help you prepare a list of online resources that they can access to get answers to those questions you may not be able to answer.

The meeting
Send out meeting notices early to give your employees time to prepare and set aside time. Try to make the meeting engaging. You may also want to consider video recording the session, and also providing remote access to employees that don’t work onsite. Provide enough time for the main presentation, as well as for questions from your employees.