Every year benefit open enrollment is a challenge that takes several months to plan and execute. Employee benefits are such an integral part of the employee experience. Contrary to popular belief, they are also an ongoing project. Once open enrollment is completed, the following two months are spent auditing and reconciling the changes. Once everything is running smoothly, the process starts again six months later. The process is non-stop and, at times, stressful.
Healthcare is a constant topic in the media and in politics. With so much information available, how do benefit managers process it all and stay current? That’s where a good benefit advisor comes into play.
Advisors are available to answer those questions every benefits manager has and make their life easier, during and after the open enrollment period. Most importantly, open enrollment is a time to be open minded and embrace new ideas and strategies. Here’s a little inspiration to help.
A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
― Frank Zappa
Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
― George Bernard Shaw
The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
― Albert Einstein
Don’t try to be young. Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff.”
― Betty White
Lastly, ask yourself or your advisor this: What are your plans to help stabilize costs? How will the plans suggested accomplish this?
Open enrollment is a great time to evaluate the services benefit managers are receiving from their insurance brokers. We often hear the same phrase at the beginning of new broker relationships, “We’ve had the same broker for a long time, and they’ve done nothing wrong to warrant a change.” While we value loyalty, we also believe that brokers should apply for their job each year. That’s exactly why we strive to stay current and innovative for all of our customers.
- For benefits managers, ask yourself this. “How do I feel about my broker? Are they advisors?”
- If a broker does the job correctly, renewal will be less complicated, costly and time consuming.
- Selecting a benefits broker is about choosing the best partner for your business and making an informed decision.
- Be tight with your compliance. Today there are more moving parts than ever before. Does my broker proactively keep me current with the latest developments in the market?
- What new ideas has my current broker provided? Have they worked and why not? Is my current broker an extension of our business by providing the knowledgeable insight I need to keep my plan compliant?
A study by SHRM in 2018 states that the average cost to hire an employee is $4,129. Now consider how many employees have left the company due to a better employee benefit offering by a competitor. An attractive benefit package will drive recruiting and retention, while keeping costs down.
At the end of the day, your company’s benefit message should say “WE CARE FOR YOU.” And it must be loud and clear. Employees who are convinced that they are important are productive, loyal and stay with their company for longer. All of that saves the company money in the end.
So how do you evaluate your benefits package in comparison to your competition? First, complete a demographic analysis. Second, find out what the employees want by conducting a survey or focus groups. Different employees have different needs at different stages of life: young married with children/ empty nesters/ men vs women/ baby boomers vs millennials. What is important for one group is not as important for another.
For example, we have a client who provides nursing services with a fairly large number of employees under the age of 40 and over the age of 55. Long-term care is important for the 55+ group, but financial wellness for those under 40. As their benefits advisor, we were able to implement an employee paid life insurance policy with a long-term benefit. For the older group, an affordable universal life policy was offered, and for the younger group, a whole life policy with a higher cash value that was guaranteed after 10 years. Due to the size of the employee base, the selected carrier made an offer that was guaranteed issue if the participation requirement was met. The rate was guaranteed for the duration of the policy, and it was portable. The plan was well received and all requirements were met.
Find Solutions – Carrier selection / Cost
The benefit broker must drive this whole process from set up to post-enrollment.
- Communication of benefits pre-enrollment ( emails/posters/text)
- Employee meetings or artificial intelligence?
- Enrollment – systems/ manual/ conditions / S125 rules. One system could be used for everything or the VB carrier could be used as well.
- Face to face enrollment vs self-enrollment vs paper enrollment?
- Multiple locations? Shifts? Coordination of enrollers should play a role in the decision. – ‘Employees spend 18 minutes on average enrolling in benefits – Open enrollment trends show that employees spend relatively little time enrolling in their benefits and tend to wait until the end of their open enrollment period to enroll. To counteract this, companies are investing in technology that provides a personalized and engaging benefits experience for their employees.’
- Technology will work well with some industries and may not work as well in others. For example a white collar employer with employees who have access to email may benefit from an online enrollment resource. However, a manufacturing company with employees without email access may benefit more from an in-person enrollment experience.
- From account set up with carriers to the submission of applications to ensuring coverage is in place, brokers should handle the major of administration.
- Billing/Invoice reconciliation of payroll and carrier invoice: Who carries the liability?
- Self-billing: Is there a liability for me as the employer?
- New hire and terminations – how is my benefit on-boarding process doing?
- How much time is spent on monthly invoice reconciliation? Does my broker offer this service?
When employees are going through medical challenges, how does my broker support my employees?
- Response time
- Carrier advocacy and interaction
- Claim support
- Surprise billing education and support.
Do you have questions about open enrollment? Contact us. Select Choice Benefits “ Taking the Complexity Out of Your Benefit Decisions”.