Here are some enrollment season tips for TPAs during the hectic open enrollment season.
It’s open enrollment time. That means Third-Party Administrators (TPAs) are making their rounds, visiting their clients and setting up their plans before the start of the new plan year. We’ve put together some enrollment season tips for benefits administrators in order to help them make it through this stressful season.
Enrollment Season Tips for Benefits Administrators
Know Your Audience
Each employer group will be a little different, so tailor your presentation accordingly. After all, a group of machinists or firefighters will have a different outlook than a group of lawyers. Are any of your groups women or minority-owned? Are your groups located in the heart of the city, in the suburbs, or within a small town? Is one group primarily Millennials, Generation X, or Baby Boomers (or a combination)?
All of these factors, and more, should be considered to make sure you deliver an informative presentation that helps maximize participation rates.
Talk to Your Employer Groups
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 period. Here are a few things to discuss with your clients before enrollment kicks off:
- Gathering feedback. Talk to employers about soliciting input on what worked and what didn’t 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.
- Providing easy access to plan information. Communication during enrollment season is a team effort between you and the company. Communicate with employees in several ways – handouts, videos, emails, and meetings. In addition, make the information easily accessible online. This allows people to review the information 24/7 and share it with family members. It also helps to have a dedicated email address or HR staff member so employees know where to go when they have questions.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. No matter when enrollment begins for a group, you should outline a communications plan for participants. Providing plan information as soon as possible gives employees more time to ask questions and make important benefits decisions.
Engage (and Educate) Your Clients
Speaking of participation rates, benefits education should be part of your strategy. Employees often have trouble understanding the value and use of the benefits available to them. This is especially true for groups with High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) and companies who use Consumer Directed Healthcare (CDH) accounts.
In order to help people better understand their benefits, consider adopting a robust employee engagement program. A top-of-the-line program should have enrollment materials for you to hand out 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:
- Creating a healthcare budget. 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 you will spend more or less in the coming year.
- Reviewing the entire benefits package. This is probably the most important open enrollment tip for employees. It takes time to read all the materials, but it could lead to cost savings and prevent bad decisions. Have any coverages changed? Have costs for some plan elements gone up or down? Discuss eligibility for a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
- Making decisions before the enrollment deadline. Good decisions are rarely made under pressure. Annual enrollment is the time to reassess which benefits meet your current needs and which you can decline. Don’t wait until the last minute to make these important decisions!
Understand Your System
Whether you use a cloud-based benefits platform or an on-premises system, 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 world of difference when signing up groups during the enrollment period. They can also help ease your workload during this hectic season.
Forms and Other Important Information
Make sure you have all the information you need to get people signed up. Did your groups’ insurance rates go up? Has the IRS updated contribution limits for HSAs or FSAs, or requirements for certain benefits? Double-check the forms and brochures that you use to ensure that all the data and information is current.
Healthcare is a sensitive issue and can be very costly for some people. That means that things can get heated at enrollment meetings, especially if people are seeing a dramatic rate increase. Also, some people are looking for answers to tough questions. Do your best to show empathy towards your clients’ concerns, which can help diffuse some of the tension. If you’re facing an especially tough, or personal, inquiry, ask the person to meet with you one-on-one after the meeting is over.
Other enrollment season tips include (from TheBalance.com):
- Make this a team effort: Along with the HR team, look at Open Enrollment (OE) as a full team effort between all members of the Third-Party Administrator team, the management team, the technology support team, and employee leaders. Do not try to tackle any aspect of OE alone.
- Stick to a daily checklist: As you enter the days before, during, and after open enrollment, be sure to track all deadlines met and goals achieved. This can help you avoid any last minute snafus.
- Take care of the team: During open enrollment, it’s important to have a constant check-in as to who is feeling the stress, who needs a break, and who is not feeling up to the tasks. Make sure to emphasize work life balance, and plan some fun events along the way.