As the fourth quarter looms right around the corner, it is never to early to start thinking about your company’s Open Enrollment period. Your first task should be to think about budgeting. It is rare for a company’s premiums to go down and it is almost guaranteed you will see an increase in premiums and possible a downgrade in benefits.
The first step in preparing for Open Enrollment is to assess your budget. Will there be enough money in the company budget to handle a possible 5-20% increase? Are you willing to sacrifice a reduction in benefits to possibly lower your rates?
Once you have a set budget, its time to have discussions with your broker regarding your options. In some cases, it might be a good idea to send out a benefits survey to your employees to get an idea for the need for coverage. You can review your overall demographics. Do you have a lot of young healthy adults wanting to start their family or are your demographics older with most of the children off at college? Depending on the needs of your employees, you may find that a higher deductible plan (meaning lower premiums) is a better fit than a very rich PPO plan. You may also find that offering more than one plan and giving your employees the option to buy up to a richer plan can save the company considerably.
After meeting with your broker and discussing your budget as well as the possibility of plan design changes, contribution changes, or multiple plan offerings, and you’ve decided on your renewal options for the next plan year, you can start planning how to educate your employees on the new transition. Even if you plan on renewing all plans and contribution as is, employees are still eligible to change plans and add dependents. Most times employees aren’t even aware that they are given an option to change their plans after initial enrollment.
An enrollment meeting or webinar is a must, no matter what size your group is. For large groups that have employees scattered around, perhaps having your broker or HR benefits administrator record a video explaining the changes for the plan year is a more convenient option if a meeting in the conference room isn’t able to happen. Employee worksheets with new premiums and contributions as well as packets with the benefit summaries should be provided to all eligible employees.
Again, these can be provided electronically with the link to the Open Enrollment video or handed out in person at the meetings. It is important that employees understand that their enrollment selections be turned in by the deadline in order to guarantee enrollment in the new plan year. This is a good time to go over the allowable qualifying events that would allow an employee to make a change to their benefit selection during the year and to stress that these are the only reasons a change can be made. And finally, encourage your employees to renew any important maintenance prescriptions prior to the end of the current plan year, so they aren’t held up waiting for their new insurance enrollment to be completed due to unforeseen circumstances.
Early planning for the upcoming renewal will help you keep on track for getting your renewal completed within the necessary time to ensure your employees’ coverage is in place and ready to use starting the first day of the new plan year.
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