As employee benefits options continue to expand in number and complexity, we see more companies choosing to make open enrollment an active election.
Unlike passive enrollment, which lets employees continue their same benefits elections from the previous year, active enrollment requires employees to evaluate all their plan options before selecting a benefits plan.
It’s especially important to hold an active enrollment during a year when there are plan additions or changes that can affect employees’ costs, such as wellness programs or the introduction of tobacco affidavits that may affect medical plan rates.
But an active enrollment comes with some challenges. We typically recommend an active enrollment because employees consider benefits changes only once a year during this period; however, we understand that active enrollments can strain resources and be costly for employers. These tips can help smooth the process.
Comprehensive Communications Are Key
We see many organizations struggle with reaching their entire population leading up to open enrollment.
Communication is a large component of a successful open enrollment. Make sure your employees know what an active enrollment requires from them. For example, some employers will drop coverage if an employee doesn’t make an active election; if you have this mandate, you’ll want to make sure your employee population is well aware of it.
Make sure employees are aware of your policies for the enrollment period by offering communications in multiple formats. We always find that organizations that use a combination of communication channels, depending on the demographics of the population, are the most successful.
For example, we’ve found that a combination of wallet card reminders, posters, email campaigns and the posting of additional information on the enrollment platform have generally been a successful strategy, although the specifics vary depending on the population. As part of your communication strategy, you can even offer incentives to encourage participation, such as a chance to win a prize for enrolling early.
Outside Communications Can Help
It typically makes sense to enlist your brokers and enrollment vendor to help communicate when it’s hard to reach the entire population. Many of our clients, for example, are in the midsize-to-large market with a decentralized workforce, so they typically enlist our help in some areas of communications.
For example, there might be a manufacturing plant with employees who don’t have a company email account. We can assist HR teams by providing posters for common areas, home mailings and outbound calling campaigns to reach these employees and make sure they’re aware of the importance of the active enrollment process.
Prepare Months Before Enrollment Begins
Organizations that plan earlier for their enrollment period can secure resources from both inside and outside the company to make the process more efficient. While there is no one-size-fits-all timeline, beginning your communications strategy 2-3 months prior to the beginning of open enrollment is a good rule of thumb.
Additionally, a few months before open enrollment, it helps to establish some objectives for the process. These goals may vary from year to year, so carefully consider what kind of objectives you want to set for your organization during open enrollment to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Winston Benefits is a Benefits Administration, Enrollment, and Communication company. We provide employers with a technology enabled benefit process in order to help communicate, enroll and administer their employee benefit programs while empowering their employees to make better benefit decisions. Contact us to learn more.