Are you ready? The health insurance open enrollment window starts Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15th. However, some states are extending the end date slightly.
But with coverage starting Jan. 1, 2022, there’s little time to waste, especially as the Delta variant spreads and impacts enrollment strategies.
Employee surveys of existing benefits are still a great way to see where employees’ needs lie.
If there’s no time left to do one now, you’ve probably done one or two over the past year to see how you could help your employees during the pandemic. You can use information from them to see where employees need help and where your existing benefits might be coming up short.
To help you avoid pitfalls and get the most bang for your buck, here are some industry-leading best practices help so your open enrollment goes off without a hitch.
Going virtual or paper?
With the Delta variant spreading across the U.S, open enrollment is going to look different again this year. While you may be fully or partially back in the office, there are likely restrictions on how many people you can have in a room at one time.
So, if you decide to ditch the paper and embrace a virtual “benefits cafe” have employees grab a cup of coffee/tea and participate in a virtual benefits meeting.
Remind employees to think about major life changes they may be embarking on in 2022, before making any benefit selections. And provide them with any changes you’ve made to your benefit offerings.
In addition, tell them where they can find all the information and electronic forms they’ll need. The key is using an insurance carrier with a strong reputation in virtual and telephonic methods — for a hybrid benefits communication strategy.
Another huge advantage is convenience. Virtual and telephonic counseling is much more accessible for employees working remotely, at several locations, or covering multiple shifts.
Note: Check the DOL’s safe harbor guidelines for electronic retirement plan communications rules to see if you’re required to mail paper copies of the open enrollment guide to certain people.
Despite the challenges of the Delta variant, some businesses still need a safe option for in-person enrollment for many of their workers.
Face-to face enrollment is really effective in adapting to a broad range of learning styles. And as the pandemic fluctuates across the country, more people are eager to make a human connection.
If you go with in person enrollment, consider these guidelines:
- Designate a manager or administrator to keep safety protocols on track with employees and rooms for group and 1-to-1 meetings.
- Make sure brokers, agents and benefits counselors on-site understand safety protocols.
- Have extra masks on hand, display helpful posters covering nose and mouth.
- Conduct group meetings in rooms at 50% capacity. Position chairs 6 feet apart.
- Encourage handwashing for at least 20 seconds.
- Have plenty of hand sanitizer on hand.
- Use or adapt rooms with good ventilation.
Avoid information overload
During open enrollment, 22% of employees are confused, 20% are anxious and 21% are stressed, according to an Unum study. You can avoid this by breaking information down into small digestible chunks.
There’s a lot that goes into open enrollment. So keeping things short, sweet and to the point is important.
Breaking information down by document is a good way to keep things clear. Here are some you might want to provide:
- The Basics: Why they need coverage, the different programs and costs involved
- Actions they need to take and their deadlines, and
- Q&A that answer the most common questions, as well as some not-so-common questions.
Also, when sending emails or naming documents, label them clearly, like “Open Enrollment Deadlines.”
Here’s a sad statistic: 35% of employees don’t understand their healthcare coverage, according to a Maestro Health survey. And, 62% don’t think their employers are good resources for their healthcare questions.
The key to fixing this problem? Create a communication strategy.
Start with targeted open enrollment communications. For instance, when you send out a benefit survey to employees, segment the questions according to qualifying life events. Then when you get the info back, it’ll already be organized for you.
Next send recommended plans to each lifestyle group (single, married with children, close to retirement, etc.).
Finally, send call-to-action messages to employees letting them know they need to “take the next step” in the open enrollment process. Make sure the actions and deadlines are specific and in bold.