Benefits administrators are all too familiar with the amount of work associated with open enrollment season. You can make it less labor intensive if you assess the effectiveness of your company’s enrollment processes before open enrollment begins.
This list of best practices can help you determine where adjustments are needed to make the process more efficient:
Take advantage of the pre-planning phase – The first step is to clarify your company’s objectives. As you are evaluating benefit plan designs, whether it’s consumer-directed health plans, health savings accounts or reimbursement accounts, decide which options are in sync with your employee population and the company’s overall goals. Also consider how technology will be used to ensure the efficiency of the enrollment process. Other factors to consider include whether benefits administration will be provided in-house or outsourced, and your organization’s budget constraints for benefit-related costs.
Define your project plan – An effective project plan should stipulate:
- Enrollment period dates
- Necessary tasks, including duration and resources required from other departments
- Availability of resources and how they will be allocated
- The amount of lead-time required for adding new populations or changing carriers/vendors
- A training schedule for benefits staff and customer service representatives
When developing a project plan, it’s essential to manage the process at every stage. In addition, you should have a contingency plan to help minimize risks.
Educate your employees about maximizing their benefits – According to MetLife’s 2005 Employee Benefits Trend Study, more than 80% of employees among certain life stages, such as singles, believe their employers need to provide more benefits education to enable workers to select the best benefits options. Clearly, communication has risen in importance as a crucial piece of the enrollment puzzle.
Employees should be provided with tools to help them navigate the health care system along with education on making smart health care decisions. This can be accomplished through direct mail benefits information, health and wellness fairs, employee meetings and online decision-making tools, such as benefits calculators.
It’s also important to inform employees about benefit trends in the industry, how much the employer is contributing for benefits, and when the employer adds more value to the health care plan. This will help employees understand the overall value of the benefit plan.
Anticipate post enrollment activity – The tasks performed in the post enrollment period are just as important to the process as those performed during open enrollment. These include:
- Timing the distribution of ID cards
- Preparing a schedule for payroll feeds
- Timing the last payroll period
- Automating payroll deductions
- Following up on carrier inaccuracies
- Conducting quarterly audits with carriers
- Preparing for the new plan year