Open Enrollment Part II – Plan Selection

4 Oct

Health Benefits Can Be CostlyThis guest blog post is courtesy of Robin Rothman, Sage Product Marketing Manager.  She has over 25 years in Human Resources Management and Director roles.  She is an expert in the areas of: Associate Relations, Compensation, Affirmative Action, Recruitment, Legal Compliance, Training and Development, HRIS and Employee Benefits. 

Once  you’ve decided on how you will handle the Administrative pieces of your Open Enrollment process, you’ll want to carefully take time to consider what options you have in selecting your plan. There will be plenty of choices for sure. Selecting options that work best for you and your employees will also necessitate consideration of your budget. You may ask yourself some questions such as, Can this plan work for us? Is it affordable to the employees? Will it be enough to attract and retain the talent we need for the business? There are many other questions you are more than likely to think about. We hope to support your thought process by providing additional information for you to consider when incorporating them into your existing processes (or if you are new to the process, some areas for you to initially consider).

What You Can Do
Obtain forecast renewals from your carrier and/or your broker. At this time, it would be advisable to obtain the quotes you need to ensure a broad range benefit offering. Once you begin the selection process, it would be helpful to partner in your Finance department by providing them with numeric spreadsheets that contain basic information to ensure you have remained within your budget. Sometimes, unforeseen business conditions necessitate last minute budget revisions. It is beneficial to incorporate them early in your process as opposed to having to redo the entire benefit selection/offering process.

Prepare an overview document for your Executive and/or the Executive to whom you directly report so they can have the chance to ask you questions. Obtaining Executive support also ensures they will share the information with other executives and garner higher level support for this important company-wide initiative. In some cases, you may need to communicate information that is not as favorable as in previous years, so having that additional Executive support helps.

Reserve any resources you need for presentation (conference rooms, conference calls, virtual presentation vendors). It’s helpful to send calendar invites so your audience can plan their time accordingly well in advance. Last minute invites could leave your audience guessing whether or not you have accurately prepared and/or selected their benefit offerings.

Create an invite memo for the meeting. Although you can’t include your benefit offerings in the invite memo, you can create excitement for the process. Don’t miss your chance to create and promote positive morale. Be sure to include your insurance broker and/or carrier representative. Since you have been working with them throughout your process, it’s easy to overlook their invitation to your final rollout.

Calculate participant costs and company costs. Create an easy to understand document that employees can share with their families. It’s ok to be creative but, remember; sometimes the decision maker for benefit selection may not be the employee. It may be a significant other who was not in attendance at your meeting. Identify COBRA participants that need timely notifications. If you use a third party vendor, ensure you are aware of their deadlines for any new information to be input into their systems. Ensure your documents contain the necessary information for compliance. Visit all applicable Department of Labor websites for any changes. If the information doesn’t seem clear to you, obtain the advice or your legal counsel. There are often hefty penalties associated with non-compliance. Obtaining legal guidance ensures you are in compliance with federal and state laws.

Once benefit plans have been selected, you will need to obtain (or create) the legally required Summary Plan Descriptions. Recent legislation has made this easier to read since all carriers are required to format their documentation in a uniform manner. If you are self-insured, be sure to have your legal team review the Summary Plan description to ensure compliance with applicable federal and/or state laws.

Prepare attendance sheets and/or a tracking mechanism for your meeting(s). This will help avoid mailing duplication. It’s also helpful to capture a record of attendance or external mailing for compliance with applicable compliances that involve time sensitive dates of receipt.

If your meeting requires physical presence, enlist the help of Administrative Departments with room setup, material dissemination, attendance tracking, meal planning, etc. Be sure to thank and acknowledge them both before and after your meeting. Remember, this is a team effort. They will appreciate the recognition.

Once your documents have been created, some areas you may consider include: Do you have a company intranet where documents need to be replaced? Will your Recruitment Department need the new materials for prospective employees, for candidates? Will Payroll require information on benefit cost changes? Can you think of anyone else inside and outside your organization that will you need to communicate your benefit changes and costs to? If you have any out of state and/or remote employees, if they are not located in close proximity to your main office or do not have easy access to a dedicated Human Resource representative, will they require any additional meeting time for questions and answers? If your organization is large, is there a place where the employees can come for assistance with benefit selection? Have you communicated to them where they can turn to for questions and/or assistance? If you provide an opt-out allocation for your employees, will they need any documentation from your company to support proof of your open enrollment changes?

Once you have selected your plan, finalize the new costs with your brokers, insurance carrier and/or third party vendors. This will ensure accurate billing. Communicate effective date for all plans. Ensure required plan testing and/or Section 125 documents (if applicable) have been completed. Prepare any forms/mechanisms for benefit selection/capture. Test this process carefully. Have someone familiar with your process review these forms for accuracy. You want your documents to be free from errors, typos etc. These are the items you can absolutely control, so take the time to review and re-review.

Meet with your Payroll department to review the process. Provide them with draft documents and collaborate with them on their needs. As you know, this will affect employee paychecks. Oftentimes, Payroll is on the front line. Partnering in with your Payroll Department ensures that processes will flow smoothly. Plus, you’ll gain another advocate in the process.

Once your meeting is complete, send an email to the associate’s thanking them for their participation in the process, meeting deadlines and for showing their support. Never underestimate the power of simply saying thank you.

Relax, Reflect. It’s Almost Over. Review your process. What went wrong, what went right? Did you receive any feedback for improvement? Have you solicited feedback from the employees and/or your Executive Team? Take the time to reflect on the process. Re-adjust, and then tweak the process.

In closing, recognize that the Open Enrollment process is an evolutionary process. It will change every year. Strive to make the process better. Have you asked yourself, how can we make this process better? When you have made the necessary adjustments to your process, be sure to schedule a follow-up meeting with your Executive to review the process and to demonstrate that you have taken the time to make the necessary adjustments toward improving the process next year.

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