Open enrollment season is fast approaching, and communicating health coverage options and changes to employees can be difficult, even for seasoned HR professionals. Employees are often confused by various terms and unsure which options are best for their situations. However, this is also a great time for employers to make these benefits more understandable, increase employee satisfaction of these benefits and increase the perceived value.
Here are some key considerations to help you and your valued employees successfully navigate open enrollment.
1. Take a personalized approach. Many employers provide technology platforms for educating employees about their options and considerations, and they certainly can serve as valuable tools. However, there are many nuances within each health plan and some employees may not be tech savvy, so don’t rely on technology alone. Continue to encourage one-on-one conversations with employees so they fully understand all their options and can make informed decisions.
2. Update and assess wellness programs. Open enrollment season is the perfect time to review your wellness initiatives and implement any improvements within your organization; that way you can communicate any opportunities as part of your enrollment to create more buy-in. Ramping up your wellness program can help lower your overall healthcare costs over time and improve worker satisfaction.
3. Explain the importance of taking personal ownership. The most effective way to drive down health insurance claims and subsequent costs is creating a culture where employees know and understand the impact of their choices. During open enrollment and throughout the year, reinforce that emergency room visits should be reserved for true emergencies, that employees should build relationships with their primary care providers, and that they should challenge discrepancies on medical bills even if insurance will cover them. This will help drive down premiums in the future.
4. Provide resources. Help employees explore their options, learn more about their benefits and take full advantage of them through online resources. Some brokers have a vast library of tools that address various health topics and can equip employees with information to make better decisions related to their health.
5. Be patient and understanding. Enrollment meetings can be stressful, especially if there is a rate increase. Adding to the stress is that some employees are less confident about which plan they should select or may be sensitive about their healthcare issues. Be transparent about the challenges of mitigating rising healthcare costs and ensure employees that you have their best interests at heart. Allow plenty of time for questions, and invite personal and confidential conversations to further explore options and explain benefits to those who are hesitant to speak up in group settings.
6. Ensure compliance. Regulations are in place to protect workers, and those who oversee benefits within an organization need to ensure compliance to avoid potential fines or litigation. One such law is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which was enacted to ensure the privacy of a person’s medical records. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, more commonly known as COBRA, allows employees and their immediate family members to remain on an employer-sponsored health plan if they leave your employment or qualify under other certain circumstances. These and many other regulations need to be properly disclosed to employees in order to remain compliant.
7. Communicate year-round. Even though open enrollment only happens once a year, it’s important for issues related to your health benefits to stay top-of-mind. Periodically remind employees about any wellness initiatives and look for creative ways to increase participation. Consider going a step further by bringing in speakers for health-related lunch and learns, Q&A sessions with a benefits specialist, on-site health screenings, smoking cessation programs, fitness classes and more. Send reminders about these resources and encourage annual health screenings. That way, when open enrollment comes around next year, your employees will be better informed and, hopefully in better health, too.
8. Leverage Your Service Provider. Open enrollment can be stressful for employers and employees alike, but you don’t have to go it alone. Look for a benefits broker that stays up on the latest regulations and is able to clearly communicate any details to guide you and your employees through the process. They can also help implement wellness programs and explore options for keeping healthcare costs at bay.
We strongly advocate this kind of partnership approach at McClone. Reach out to us to remove the guesswork, explore the best options, ensure compliance and demonstrate to your employees that you truly care for their well-being.
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