It’s that time of year again! Across the nation, employers and employees are preparing for the open enrollment period. Benefits enrollment is incredibly important to employers and employees alike and this can lead to a great deal of stress. For employees, the enrollment period is their opportunity to make crucial decisions about their benefits. These choices will greatly impact their care and finances in the coming year. For employers, a successful benefits enrollment can save them hours of administrative burden, help them financially plan for the year, and help them meet compliance standards.
The Open Enrollment Period in 2021
The annual open enrollment period is when individuals can enroll or make changes to their benefit elections in a health insurance plan. This specific enrollment period exists because health insurance companies must take in more money in premiums each year than is paid out in claims. Having a designated period for benefits enrollment ensures that both healthy individuals and individuals with health concerns sign up for benefit plans simultaneously, minimizing the financial risk to an insurance company. The only other time when individuals can enroll or make benefits updates is in connection to a “qualifying event.” Events like a marriage or the birth of a child qualify. For group health plans that are based on a calendar year, the open enrollment period generally begins mid-to late Fall.
How COVID-19 is Impacting Benefits Enrollment
The COVID-19 pandemic has created extraordinary circumstances in terms of individual health and workplace practices. It comes as no surprise that open enrollment challenges are being impacted just as greatly. In any normal year, healthcare benefits make up a significant portion of overall benefits costs for both employees and employers. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the demand and need for healthcare. This demand is creating additional factors to consider in electing benefits during the open enrollment season.
One of the most obvious areas where the pandemic has impacted benefits enrollment is in the pocketbook. COVID-19 has put a strain on the healthcare system and increased the demand for care as well as claims costs. This means that preparing for higher premiums is prudent! Employers are encouraged to revisit their benefit offerings, be open to healthcare plan design changes, and pay attention to urgent needs connected to the pandemic like mental health offerings and an emphasis on affordability. High deductible plans, health savings accounts, telemedicine offerings, and hour banks are just a few examples of how to adapt a benefit plan design to meet the needs of the moment.
Facilitating a Smooth Benefits Enrollment
The landscape of healthcare is constantly changing. That goes double for legal shifts pertaining to requirements and obligations for benefits and communications, such as new legislation. When preparing for open enrollment season getting an early start and anticipating possible changes is vital. Being prepared ensures more than just employee clarity and a smooth benefits enrollment. It can also make all the difference in terms of compliance and preventing any penalties within your organization.
Company leadership and human resources have a big role to play in effectively addressing employee questions during enrollment. As a best practice, all enrollment communications should use simple, concise language and set clear expectations regarding deadlines. “Health fairs” and meetings are a popular means of communicating benefit changes and offerings to employees. There are several convenient virtual options that exist, as well. Education and technology are key tools in ensuring a successful benefits enrollment.
Collaborating With a TPA for Ensured Success
Employers that collaborate with benefit partners, like a third-party administrator (TPA), should make a plan for open enrollment early. TPAs have the experience and expertise to monitor, advise, and ensure the continued compliance of employer-sponsored health plans. These benefit professionals can be a trusted resource for ensuring that your healthcare offerings are in compliance. A TPA may provide self-enrollment tools or systems, which can support a successful benefits enrollment. At Boon, we take our history of benefits and health insurance administration, and add to that our extensive knowledge of niche industries and client needs!
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