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Refreshing Insights

Every year, employers look for ways to simplify the open enrollment process for employee benefits. It can be a major undertaking to educate employees about their choices, answer questions, process applications and set up coverage.

For 2021, the task may feel particularly daunting with COVID-19. Requirements for ongoing social distancing, coupled with more employees working remotely, makes it challenging to bring everyone together to roll out new benefits. To address this, many companies are turning to technology to help simplify their open enrollment processes and make it easier to elect benefits remotely.

There is no one way to simplify the enrollment process that works for every organization. Tactics depend on the size of your company, complexity of the benefits packages you offer, employee demographics and culture. Tailoring your strategies to meet your specific needs helps encourage employee engagement and ultimately paves the way for a more efficient enrollment period.

Most employers look to split the process into two parts. First, make it easier for your company to administer, and second, help employees better understand their options so they can get the most out of your plan. As you examine your specific needs for 2021, consider how you might tailor some general technology strategies to streamline your approach to open enrollment.

Employer Administrative Processes

Presenting Benefits

Prior to COVID-19, it was not unusual for employers to invite their insurance broker to an in-person companywide meeting to speak about the benefits package. This year, with the challenges of bringing everyone together, more employers are opting for virtual meetings.

Typically, virtual benefits meetings are either attended as a live presentation at a set time and date where employees can ask questions via a Q&A feed or viewed as a prerecorded on-demand video presentation. Many companies offer employees the choice of either option to better accommodate work schedules.

In addition to virtual presentations, it helps to provide employees with supporting materials—annual notices, rate summaries and benefits booklets—that they can review on demand. Another option is to use short, customized videos to explain the benefits offered. Several companies have chosen to link the videos with the related text in their employee benefits booklet.

Many companies have successfully increased viewership of these supporting materials by providing them in a digital format on the company intranet and driving employees to them with an email campaign.

Making Election Process Easier

Many human resources departments already use software and online enrollment platforms, such as Employee Navigator, to allow employees to fill out applications and self-select benefits offerings.

The bonus of an online platform during COVID is that your employees can access it from anywhere, and you can send your employees electronic messages, alerts and materials through the system, benefiting from the software’s tracking abilities.

To stay on track for deadlines, many HR departments create automated workflows to complete the benefits paperwork required for various scenarios (e.g., new enrollees versus renewals). You can also set timeframes required for processing, set deadlines for submitting paperwork, and assign who is responsible for each step in the process.

If you have been waiting to pull the trigger on an HR software system, now might be a good time to start looking at the various technologies available in the market.

Employee Education Strategies

During Enrollment

When it comes to simplifying the enrollment and election process for employees, education is key. Employees need to understand what benefits are offered and how to use them to the best advantage. The goal is to help employees feel empowered to ask questions about their care and save themselves time and money.

A good broker not only explains benefits, but also acts as an interpreter for your employees, helping them navigate the oft-confusing healthcare industry. Typically, in-person benefits presentations give employees an opportunity to ask the broker questions. With online meetings, that can be a bit trickier.

To ensure employees still have the opportunity to ask personal questions, some savvy HR reps are setting up virtual “office hours” with their brokers. For example, the broker blocks his or her calendar from 2 to 4 p.m. and employees sign up for an individual consultation in a 10-minute timeslot.

Enrollment education is usually centered on what’s included in the benefits package, paying particular attention to any changes in the plan—added services, removed services, change in pharmacy provider, etc.—but that shouldn’t be the end of your education efforts.

Ongoing Education

For better healthcare cost containment, consider an ongoing educational program for employees. Training can be as simple as showing employees which local pharmacies offer the lowest prices to fill prescriptions or a tutorial on the most appropriate times to utilize telemedicine versus visiting the emergency room.

You can offer refresher training throughout the year and make information, materials and video training available on demand. The more educated your workforce is about their healthcare options, the more streamlined your enrollment period becomes.

Looking for Ways to Control Healthcare Costs?

The cost of healthcare continues to increase. If you are looking for effective strategies to help you mitigate those costs and keep your premiums reasonable, check out our guide 6 Tips for Controlling Rising Healthcare Costs and give us a call today. New call-to-action

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A collection of articles from the McClone team with the helpful knowledge and insights to ensure your organization is well protected.