As open enrollment approaches, selecting benefits looks different than it did a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic and uncertain economy are changing how many will tackle their benefits strategy this year. The year 2020 has also marked a shift to a completely virtual open enrollment process. Many companies had begun the transition to virtual enrollment prior to the pandemic, but those who had yet to make that switch are likely diving into that process headfirst this year.
Here are some tips for brokers on setting up an efficient open enrollment process from home.
Remind clients of deadlines
With the process of open enrollment going virtual, it’s easier for deadlines to pass by unnoticed. The open enrollment period begins November 1 and ends on December 15, 2020, and unless you qualify for a special enrollment period, this is the window during which plan decisions must be made. Ensure your clients are aware of these deadlines and are discussing any necessary changes to health plans prior to the enrollment period. Also, make instructions clear and easy to understand so that the process remains a smooth one.
Suggest check-in meetings with both clients and employees
To ensure clients are meeting these deadlines, hold a virtual meeting with internal benefits stakeholders to assess how employee needs may have evolved since last year’s open enrollment period. Asking the right questions will help determine what may have changed over the past year. Encouraging clients to also check in with their employees directly to establish what needs they may have, either through a company town hall, survey or other method of data collection will allow employees to express their health care needs.
Explore different communications tools
Virtual open enrollment provides an opportunity to embrace some more digital methods of communication to clients and their employees. A lack of communication around which benefits are offered, deadlines and ways to access benefits can cause a decrease in usage and negatively impact employee satisfaction. Different tools work for different organizations, so test out various methods of benefits communication, such as dedicated benefits websites and apps, as well as text message communication, to see what works best. It can also be helpful within these communications to provide real-life, relatable examples around life events employees may be planning for, such as the birth of a child or other planned medical expenses, in order to be certain that employees understand what resources are available to them.
Encourage leadership and management participation
Though employees are likely self-motivated to ensure they have the health care benefits they need for themselves and their families, seeing participation from organization leadership can be beneficial as well. Brokers can encourage leaders and upper management to participate in benefits presentations, webinars or however else you choose to disseminate benefits information in order to show employees that the benefits process is a priority for organizational leaders. If employees feel their leaders have a genuine investment in their well-being, they are likely to perform better and express higher job satisfaction.
For organizations in between plans, Harvard Pilgrim SmartStart can help get employers and members on board before coverage even begins. And for employees trying to make informed decisions on their health plans, Harvard Pilgrim has also partnered with MyHealthMath* to offer a personalized one-on-one decision support service to employer groups with Harvard Pilgrim coverage.
This article first appeared as featured content in Harvard Pilgrim’s HaPi Guide newsletter on October 27, 2020. To stay up-to-date on the latest healthcare topics such as the future of health care, new ways to be healthy or the business of insurance, sign up to receive our monthly communication:
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*MyHealthMath is available to employers with at least 100 subscribers offering two or more Harvard Pilgrim plans, including an HSA-eligible plan. It is free to fully insured employer groups, but at a cost for the self-insured. Exclusions apply; please consult your Harvard Pilgrim account executive for more information.