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Open Enrollment: What It Means For Employees

With open enrollment around the corner, it’s time to cover the basics and how it will affect employees and businesses. It’s the best time for HR professionals to discuss and educate others on healthcare and benefit options. It can be chaotic when unorganized, for both employers and employees.

To show support for your employees, it’s crucial to be proactive in making this process easy for them to get the most out of the open enrollment period. Choosing the right plans can be confusing, especially for new hires, and a lot of paperwork is involved for both parties. Here are some tips to help you steer through this vital time.

What Is Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment is a period of time when employees have the opportunity to opt-in or change benefit options available to them through their employer; health, dental, and life insurance.  Employees have the option to enroll in benefits for the first time, change their current plan and  coverage amounts, or forgo coverage completely.

Usually, the most significant component of open enrollment is health insurance for both employees and employers. Employers must consider what benefit options they will offer their employees. Some companies like to take advantage of this time of reflection to evaluate the overall employee benefits package and wellness programs.

Open enrollment also refers to the period of time for people to discover their healthcare options through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA offers a healthcare marketplace where people can apply for Medicaid, CHIP, or health insurance. These options are only available to those who qualify.

How Open Enrollment Works

All employer-sponsored health programs use an open enrollment period. Most companies have open enrollment in November so benefit plans can begin on January 1. There isn’t a set time for how long open enrollment should last; it depends on the company itself, as long as all of the mandatory paperwork is completed before the federal deadlines.

Some of the benefit options available to change during open enrollment include:

  • Healthcare
  • HSA or FSA plans
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Life insurance
  • Disability
  • Vacation
  • Sick time
  • 401k

During open enrollment, employees reevaluate their healthcare and benefit needs. Some might elect to lessen coverage to save on premiums or to drop their employer-sponsored plan altogether to seek coverage elsewhere. Employees should feel encouraged to ask questions and voice any concerns about the health benefits being offered and what changes they are allowed to make.

Why is Open Enrollment Important?

Typically once benefit selections are made, they cannot change for a year unless specific qualifying events occur. Most benefits through an employer only have the option to change during the year if there’s a qualifying event like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, adoption, and loss of coverage. This aspect is an added reason why the open enrollment period is crucial.

Another important facet of open enrollment is educating employees about their benefits. Teaching them about their options and how that will affect their payroll and ways to take advantage of their plans is imperative to a successful open enrollment.

If employees miss the open enrollment period deadlines, they have the option to seek healthcare through the healthcare marketplace.

Essential Tips To Consider For Open Enrollment

Create a Compilation of Healthcare Terms

The language used in health insurance usually isn’t in the simplest terms and can be overwhelming for new employees. When initiating the open enrollment process, offer a resource of unknown or standard terms they might come across that will help them understand their options better.

Establish Open Communication

Having open communication is the best way to figure out where employees are struggling and how to help them. It can also create new ways to navigate through future open enrollment periods. This line of communication should be available year-round so employees can voice any concerns about their plans and what to change in the future. Open communication should be available to all employees, regardless of enrollment status.

Organize a Summary of Benefits Sheets

A lot of the benefits offered have minor details that differentiate them and can be difficult to keep track of. Creating a summary of benefits can help employees understand their options and construct a tangible list for them to peruse. The same options might not be available to all employees so it’s necessary to tailor the summary of benefits to the eligible people to avoid any confusion.

Educate Employees on Their Options

All of the above tips tie in with educating employees. They should be well-versed on what the open enrollment period is, how it works, and how it affects them. When employees know the specifics about their options, it can help streamline the process, create a healthy work environment, and prepare them for future enrollments. They should also know the final deadlines for each benefit option.

Provide Quality Resources

Along with helpful term definitions and a summary of benefits, additional resources should be included. Some companies opt for an online forum so employees can openly communicate with each other and their employers. A lack of participation is a major concern during open enrollment and offering a variety of educational resources among multiple channels can increase involvement.

Some additional resources could be an employee benefits website, enrollment emails or newsletters, printed materials, and digital presentations.

Let Alltrust Help You During Open Enrollment

This period of time can be an overwhelming and daunting task, but it’s still vital to assist employees as best as you can. Open enrollment will reflect their benefits for the entire calendar year so it’s essential to guide them as much as possible. Hopefully, with additional information and helpful tips, you can help your employees make the best decision for themselves, their family, and their health.

Having an Alltrust professional by your side can help take some of the stress out of this process. We are here for the health of your business and your employees. We understand all of the components that go into a successful open enrollment period. Contact us today to learn how we can guide you through this process.


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