The option of defaulting to the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mode is unhealthy at the best of times. When it comes to open enrollment and your employees’ health insurance decisions, that approach presents serious risk. And yet, according to a survey by a major US insurance company, a massive 90% of employees make no change in their benefit choices year after year, despite changes in the plan.
As the quality, access, and cost of health insurance changes annually, it often falls on you, the employer, to make critical decisions that will affect your employees’ benefit options. With the growing requirements of government mandates, you’ll likely see employee participation on the rise, too. This means that your benefits also become a key tool in attracting and retaining top talent – the aforementioned survey found 57% of employees would willingly accept a job offer at a lower salary but with better benefits.
With all this in mind, how can employers better prepare for this year’s open enrollment period?
If your employees appear basically healthy and productive in their jobs, it may be easy to assume that they’re happy with their current healthcare benefits. However, it’s crucial to get the big picture. Run an anonymous survey to get a clearer idea of your employees’ experiences on existing plans as well as their healthcare values, needs and desires.
This is especially vital if your workforce is composed of a diverse range of ages and lifestyles. A twenty-eight year old single male who travels a lot is going to have very different needs than the thirty-five year old mother of two children or the sixty year old manager with growing health problems.
The results of a thorough evaluation should help uncover what types of plans are best for your staff, whether that be a PPO or HMO, low or high deductible, or an HSA option.
Keep your employees in the loop before, during, and after open enrollment. Choosing benefits packages can be an overwhelming process, especially if you do end up making major changes to the plans you offer. Providing easy access to FAQs, cost comparison charts, and coverage explanations will make life easier for everyone involved.
For some companies, it may be valuable to arrange an employee meeting where you can verbally explain changes and answer any questions. For other companies, email communication may be best. Either way, make sure you have information in writing – or even create a benefits handbook – to save time and help avoid miscommunication.
As mentioned before, as many as 90% of employees default their benefits choices to what they’ve always had in the past, despite annual plan changes. According to the same survey, this often happens simply because people spend as little as 30 minutes making the decision. Whether this is due to a lack of time or a lack of comprehension, this tactic could land your employees in deep costs and suffering health – neither of which are good for productive work performance.
Combat this by keeping your employees engaged in the open enrollment process. Communication is a two-way street, so monitor the level of response and feedback you get to gauge how engaged people are. Providing employees with in-office time to evaluate the choices, or giving them access to one-on-one assistance with your HR specialists can be helpful.
Communication and engagement are key, but they don’t necessarily guarantee confidence in decision-making. An effort to educate your workforce on the variable elements of available benefits will help ensure maximum efficacy of your plans.
Effective education may include a benefits seminar or it may take the form of a guidebook. Be prepared to answer tough questions and have an array of tools and resources on hand to help your employees find the answers they need. For many companies, partnering with an outsourced HR solution is valuable is this process, as they can share a wider knowledge of the challenges and solutions of healthcare benefits.
Health insurance can be one of the most costly line items for employers, and as essential to employees as their compensation. Open enrollment can present a number of challenges, not least the complexity involved for both employers and employees. Thorough evaluation, consistent communication, ongoing engagement, and valuable education are all key to making the process smooth and effective.
At the end of the day, your best decisions may be made with help from a trusted advisor who has deep insight in the field of health insurance benefits. Let us know how we can help unburden you during open enrollment. At Synergy, we’re dedicated to helping clients achieve greater quality with less stress. Contact us today.