The annual Open Enrollment period for many employee benefits programs is quickly approaching. Significant time and energy is typically spent on selecting the right insurance carriers and plans, implementing new benefits and perks, and developing communications. Another area requiring careful consideration is the benefits administration system used to capture enrollments.
While each system will present its own requirements, there are key components that deserve attention regardless of the platform. Below are tips and strategies that may help your organization prepare.
Choose your open enrollment approach: What level of engagement will you require of employees during open enrollment? An active open enrollment forces employees to evaluate and submit all applicable benefit plan elections for the new plan year. Under a passive open enrollment, most benefit plan elections automatically carry through to the new plan year if the employee does not take any action. This decision will guide the set-up of plans and enrollment options within your benefit administration system.
Review your current census and enrollment data: In an ideal world, your benefits administration system would always be up to date when it comes to recent new hires, terminations, demographic changes, and enrollment updates. However, it’s a wise idea to review the current status of your data prior to starting open enrollment. This is especially important if you are using a standalone system. One often overlooked area is compensation updates. If offering salary-based benefits, you’ll want to ensure your benefits administration system reflects accurate information. In addition, you may want to act on any pending requests for Life Events or Evidence of Insurability (EOI).
Modify your enrollment training materials: Software vendors push out system changes that may impact the user interface and functionality on a regular basis. If you’re providing a how-to guide for open enrollment, don’t simply distribute last year’s materials. Review recent product release notes from your benefits administration software vendor. Screenshots and video screencasts may need updating to avoid confusion regarding key system functions, including the login or enrollment process.
Get ahead of integration updates: Communicate early and often with partners that require integration. Many vendors have specific timelines regarding when they will need to receive enrollment data from your system. Carrier or plan changes may necessitate significant data feed programming updates. If you are required to provide an initial enrollment census before a feed can be established, work with your software vendor to ensure you’ll be able to extract the applicable data. If your benefits administration system is integrated with a payroll vendor, new deduction codes may need to be mapped to account for benefit and plan changes.
Clean up your benefits communication library: If you are storing plan communication materials within your benefits administration system, make sure everything is valid and up to date. Here are a few things to check for:
Are the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) documents for the new plan year?
Are the links directing people to the insurance carriers’ portals still valid?
Do the educational videos reference plan limits or rules that may no longer be applicable?
Do any open enrollment email templates need modification, including kick-off announcements and reminders?
Should outdated materials - old Benefits Guide booklets, links to carriers no longer being used, etc. - be removed once the new plan year starts?
Develop testing and auditing scenarios: Once the benefits and plans being offered during open enrollment are finalized, begin identifying issues employees might run into once they log in to the system. For example, does a new plan option have a localized or limited network that could confuse out-of-area employees? Is a Health Savings Account (HSA) option being offered for the first time? Asking these types of questions will help identify the types of tests you should run in the system prior to open enrollment. It’s also important to identify what auditing needs to be once open enrollment has completed. This may include analyzing contribution amounts, reviewing Primary Care Provider designations, checking dependent eligibility, and more.
Identify your help resources: Carefully preparing your benefits administration system will increase your chances of having a successful open enrollment period. Even with careful preparation, however, last-minute issues and questions can still arise. Identify now, how and where you’ll turn for help. Will your benefits broker provide technical support? Or, will you need to call the software vendor directly? Are there online resources you can turn to? Knowing the answers ahead of time will reduce stress and speed up time-to-resolution.
We hope that you have found these tips helpful. Risk Strategies plays a pivotal role in helping our clients with open enrollment preparation, including benefits administration system support. If you would like to learn how we could help your organization, please contact a member of our team.
The contents of this article are for general informational purposes only and Risk Strategies Company makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information contained herein. Any recommendations contained herein are intended to provide insight based on currently available information for consideration and should be vetted against applicable legal and business needs before application to a specific client.