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November 2023  Volume 21, Number 11        
 

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Seven Open Enrollment Tips for Communi-cating Benefits

This year’s open enrollment period presents some unique challenges for employers looking to effectively communicate benefits options to employees. With rising healthcare costs, high inflation, a hybrid workforce split between office and remote settings, and workers facing mounting financial pressures, it is more important than ever for organizations to get open enrolment right.

1. Talk and Listen to Employees

Human resources leaders emphasize the importance of understanding employees’ needs and concerns prior to and during open enrollment. Conducting listening sessions and surveys can provide insights into the types of benefits employees hope to see offered or expanded. This allows employers to tailor communications and focus areas accordingly.

2. Embrace Technology While Maintaining a Personal Touch

Digital communication reigns supreme in reaching today’s dispersed workforce. Virtual benefits fairs, online enrollment platforms, video calls, and messaging apps like Slack allow employees to access information easily on their own time.

However, experts caution against relying solely on technology. One-on-one counseling remains invaluable for explaining options and addressing individual circumstances. In-person group meetings also foster engagement.

Material sent directly to employees’ homes captures attention better than emails alone. Snail mail also reaches spouses who often make medical decisions. Communication should be multi-channeled, with technology complementing personal guidance.

3. Highlight the Value of Voluntary Benefits

The popularity of voluntary benefits like hospital indemnity, critical illness, and accident insurance continues to grow. With household budgets squeezed by inflation, these supplementary policies provide financial protections against unexpected healthcare costs.

Open enrollment is a good time to explain how such options complement traditional medical plans. For example, hospital indemnity pays a fixed cash benefit upon hospitalization, regardless of major medical coverage. Expert input can help employees determine which voluntary offerings make sense for their situation.

4. Discuss Rising Healthcare Costs

Being transparent about increasing medical premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses builds trust and understanding. Employees deserve to know if they will pay more or take on additional cost-sharing responsibilities.

This conversation also allows employers to offer cost-saving strategies like using preventive care, comparing treatment options, checking drug prices, and utilizing tax-advantaged accounts to pay for qualified expenses. Guiding workers to be savvier healthcare consumers ultimately benefits everyone.

5. Explain How Savings Accounts Work

Many employees do not fully grasp how flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) function. Enrollment season provides the perfect opportunity to explain how these accounts can be used tax-free for copays, prescriptions, dental, vision, and more.

Educating staff on the mechanics and advantages of the accounts encourages utilization throughout the plan year. Employees should know FSA funds expire annually and HSAs roll over year-to-year. Participants should be reminded to estimate expenses conservatively when electing a contribution amount to prevent forfeited balances.

6. Promote All Benefit Offerings, Not Just Enrollment Items

While open enrollment revolves around selecting medical, dental, vision, life insurance, disability, and tax-advantaged accounts, it’s also an excellent time to spotlight other benefits. For example, use this time to direct employees to mental health resources, wellness programs, employee assistance plans, and more.

If possible, feature real employee testimonials, which will resonate more powerfully. With many facing mental health struggles today, promoting awareness during enrolment may prompt someone to access an overlooked offering. Broadening focus beyond immediate enrollment needs provides a holistic view of the company’s full benefits portfolio.

7. Set Goals and Benchmarks for Measuring Success

HR experts emphasize defining what makes for a successful open enrollment at the outset. Is enrollment mandatory or optional? What percentage of employees must participate to meet objectives? Establish metrics early to gauge progress regularly.

Track employees’ understanding of options, enrollment completion rates, utilization of support resources like benefits counselors, and post-enrollment satisfaction surveys. This data reveals what works well versus areas needing improvement. Setting targets and regularly assessing performance is vital to maximizing future enrollment periods.

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In this issue:

This Just In ... PPACA Penalties Pack a Punch: What Employers Need to Know

Seven Open Enrollment Tips for Communicating Benefits

Virtual Physical Therapy: An Employer’s Secret Weapon Against Opioids

How Smart Employers are Using Second Opinions to Avoid Unneeded Surgeries

Employers Apply Brakes to Runaway Compensation Growth

 

 


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