In the U.S., the beginning of November typically means the start of open enrollment for health insurance. It’s the time of year when employees can choose health benefit options, or switch to new ones. If your employees haven’t been thinking about their health benefits, many of them will be soon.
Are you ready to answer their questions, and help them sort through the process?
Open enrollment for health benefits
Open enrollment can be a stressful time for lots of employees. They have to decide if the coverage they had last year will meet their needs this year. And to do so, they might have to look ahead.
- Are they starting or growing their family?
- Are they worried about a health issue, or planning surgery they’ve been putting off?
- Can they afford the out-of-pocket costs that will come with changing their plan?
Plan administrators and organizations have concerns too.
- Have you done a good job promoting the company’s health plan?
- Are you prepared to accommodate changes to premiums based on your mid-year plan review and renewal projections?
- Do your current benefits match with the needs of your employee population?
Below, we’ve outlined a number of key facts to keep in mind as open enrollment gets closer.
Benefits administration can be cumbersome, and sometimes difficult to manage any time of year. Using benefits administration software like BeneTrac, with user-friendly, mobile features, can help your employees take full advantage of new and existing benefits—and simplify management for you. Request a demo, and learn more. Request your demo [horizontal line]
Offering health benefits
Sponsoring health insurance is the norm for many organizations. For some, it’s the law:
- If you employ 50 or more full-time equivalents (FTEs), then the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that you offer health insurance or you may have to pay a penalty. Workers that work 30 or more hours a week are considered full-time employees, according to the ACA’s Employee Shared Responsibility Provisions.
For others, it’s a strategic decision:
- Recent employer data shows that 95% of organizations with fewer than 50 FTEs still provide a health care plan to employees. Many do so as a way to help recruit and retain employees.
Open Enrollment 101
As you prepare for open enrollment, here are four key pieces to keep in mind:
1. Why does open enrollment matter?
During open enrollment, employees can opt in or out of plans. They can also make changes to their current coverage. Typically, open enrollment is the only time of the year that they can change coverage.
The exception is if a person experiences a qualifying, or special life event, that allows them to change their plan options. Such events include getting married, having a baby, or losing existing health coverage, to name a few.
2. Why do companies schedule open enrollment around the same time?
An employer’s open enrollment period often coincides with the Individual Market Open Enrollment period that affects the entire health insurance marketplace.
For 2019, the Individual Market Open Enrollment period starts on November 1, and ends on December 15. If a person misses the open enrollment window, they can still apply for health insurance in the case of a special life event such as one of those listed above.
Employer open enrollment periods can vary, and usually don’t offer as much time to enroll. They may also be at a different time of the year entirely. HR professionals considering when to hold open enrollment, and how long to keep it open should consider the difficulties that may occur if they don’t match the market enrollment period.
3. What should our organization do for employees miss open enrollment?
Legally, you’re not required to do anything if employees miss the open enrollment period. Some benefits plans might even restrict you from making an exception (unless an employee experiences a special life event).
With that said, you might consider meeting with them to discuss options, and set a plan to help them keep an eye on next year’s open enrollment period.
4. How can benefits administration software help make open enrollment easier?
Many companies turn to benefits administration software to help simplify the open enrollment experience.
- Most benefits administration software includes an administrative dashboard that lets you view and adjust benefits packages when you need to.
- You can set calendar reminders to alert employees when enrollment dates are approaching.
- Dashboards can also help employees take control when it comes to making claims, and update their personal information when necessary.
- Employees can also update their information when they need to—during open enrollment or otherwise.
- Employees can update coverage options during open enrollment (or other times if they’ve experienced a qualifying life event).
- Finally, most benefit administration software programs act as a portal to plan information, making it easy for employees to research plan information on their own, and reducing administration time for your HR team.
When benefits are part of larger organizational conversations, it can help employees understand the full scope of their coverage. Once open enrollment comes around, it’s important to stay as organized as possible, especially when employees are making changes that will affect them and their families for the entire year to come.
An organized open enrollment experience can remind employees how important benefits are to your strategic vision and goals. Find out how BeneTrac’s employee-facing features and services can help you create a solid foundation for a productive workforce. Contact BeneTrac today.