It’s open enrollment time. That means third-party administrators (TPAs) are working with clients to set up plans for the new year. We’ve compiled some tips and reminders for benefits administrators to help them through this stressful season.
Tip #1: Know Your Audience
Each employer group will be different, so tailor your presentation accordingly. Occupation, geographic location, and generational cohort may affect employees’ wants and needs. For example, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers may each have different needs, from benefits to how they absorb information.
These factors and others should be considered to ensure you deliver an informative presentation that helps maximize participation rates.
Tip #2: Talk to Your Employers
One way to get to know your audience is to talk to your employers. They know their employees best and can help you gather the necessary information to deliver a successful enrollment. Here are a few things to discuss with clients before enrollment kicks off:
- Gather employee feedback. Talk to employers about soliciting input on what did and didn’t work during the last plan year. Employers can gather information via team meetings, confidential surveys, and one-on-one discussions. The feedback will help identify where and how to improve the benefits plan and the enrollment process.
- Provide easy access to plan information. Communicate with employees via handouts, videos, emails, and meetings. Making the information accessible online allows people to review it 24/7 and share it with family members. It also helps to have a dedicated email address or H.R. staff member that employees can use to access answers when they have questions.
- Don’t wait. No matter when enrollment begins for an employer, outline a communications plan for participants. Providing plan information as soon as possible gives employees more time to ask questions and make essential benefits decisions.
Tip #3: Engage and Educate
Benefits education should be a significant part of your strategy. Employees often need help understanding the value and use of the benefits available, especially for those groups with High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) and companies using Consumer Directed Healthcare (CDH) accounts.
Consider adopting a robust employee engagement program. A top-of-the-line program should have enrollment materials with simple, easy-to-understand information. Consider providing short educational videos, a website for participants seeking more details, and an active social media presence.
Other relevant topics for employee enrollment:
- Review previous healthcare expenses. Remind participants to review all healthcare costs for the current year-to-date, including healthcare premiums, visits to the doctor and emergency room, prescription drugs, and hospital stays. Include any other out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, then add up all these costs and estimate whether expenses will likely increase or decrease in the coming year.
- Review the entire benefits package. This tip may help employees the most. It takes time to read all the materials, but doing so could lead to cost savings and prevent bad decisions. Things to review include coverage changes, plan element cost changes, and Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) eligibility.
- Make decisions before the enrollment deadline. Annual enrollment is the time to reassess which benefits meet your current needs and which you can decline. Making good decisions under pressure is challenging, so complete these critical decisions before the deadline.
Tip #4: Understand Your System
Regardless of your benefits platform, you should know your software’s strengths and weaknesses. For example:
- Does it allow online enrollment?
- Is it easy to set up plans and employer groups?
- Can participants access their account information through a web portal?
These factors can make a difference in easing your workload when enrolling employer groups during this hectic time.
Tip #5: Forms and Other Important Information
Ensure you have all the information you need to encourage enrollment. Did insurance rates go up? Has the IRS updated contribution limits for HSAs or FSAs or requirements for certain benefits? Double-check forms and brochures to ensure all the data and information are current.
Tip #6: Be Compassionate
Healthcare is sensitive and costly for some people, and many need answers to tough questions. That means enrollment meetings can get heated, especially when rates dramatically increase. Showing empathy for clients’ concerns may help diffuse some tension. Finally, schedule private conversations after meetings when facing tough or personal inquiries.
- Make this a team effort: Open Enrollment requires a team effort, including the TPA team, the management team, the IT team, and employee leaders. Do not try to tackle any aspect of open enrollment alone.
- Stick to a daily checklist: Before, during, and after open enrollment, track all open tasks, deadlines met, and goals achieved to avoid last-minute snafus and recognize accomplishments.
- Take care of the team: During open enrollment, it’s essential to encourage breaks and monitor stress and burnout. Make sure to emphasize work-life balance and plan some fun events along the way.
DataPath, Inc. has been a full-service TPA business solutions provider for nearly four decades. Our cloud-based Summit platform is the industry’s first all-in-one solution for CDH, HSA, Well-Being, COBRA, and Billing administration; plus, we offer comprehensive Operations BPO and award-winning Marketing Services for users of all administrative platforms. Please enter your email (above right) to be notified when new blog articles are published.