For individuals, Open Enrollment is the one time of the year (except for major life events) that people can enroll in, switch, or change their existing health insurance plan.
While small businesses can enroll in group health insurance plans at any time during the year, the Open Enrollment period serves as an ideal opportunity to reevaluate existing medical coverage benefits. That’s why many businesses choose this period to change or optimize the benefits they provide their employees.
The Open Enrollment period for 2022 health plans begins on November 1, 2021, and runs through January 15, 2022, which is a month longer this year.
SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS HAVE A LOT TO CONSIDER
Open Enrollment can be an incredibly hectic time for members of your HR department or anyone tasked with analyzing different plans and offerings. The process can be overwhelming, from examining health care updates and sorting through multiple plan options to conforming with any new budgetary requirements.
To help make the process run a bit more smoothly, here are a few tips to consider:
Waiting until the last moment to plan for Open Enrollment is an enormous — and easily avoidable — mistake. Employees deserve to understand what changes are being made to their benefits packages well in advance. So, give yourself at least two to four weeks to plan and organize upcoming health plans for your employees. Remember that the attractiveness of your benefits package is a crucial component in keeping your company competitive in a hot hiring market. Give the process the time and attention it deserves.
CONSIDER BUYING COVERAGE THROUGH SHOP
The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is a health insurance exchange that helps small business owners provide medical and dental insurance to their employees. To purchase SHOP insurance, your business or non-profit organization generally must have between one and 50 employees. SHOP was created to give small businesses some advantages that larger employers have historically experienced, such as greater purchasing power, pool risk, and more options among health plans. Some smaller employers may also qualify for tax credits if they buy health insurance through the SHOP Marketplace. In addition, there’s no limited enrollment period for the SHOP Marketplace, so small business owners can apply, pick plans, and enroll employees any time of year.
You can find out if your business qualifies for SHOP enrollment and learn more about the plans offered here.
COMMUNICATE EARLY AND OFTEN
An easy way to understand what your employees are looking for from their benefits package is to ask them. First, conduct a survey that covers the basics of your plan options and see which ones are most important to your team. Then organize your plan based on their responses.
After you’ve selected your plan, alert your employees that Open Enrollment is coming. But remember — choosing a benefits plan isn’t always easy for people. To connect with them early in the process, use clear, easy-to-follow language and terminology. Summarize your benefits choices and any changes from the previous year so they can examine their options. You might also want to consider bringing in a third-party representative to outline your benefits plan and answer any questions.
ENCOURAGE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION
Many employees are tempted to roll over their previous year’s selections. Instead, encourage them to review their benefits options carefully. Instruct employees to consider their past usage and choose the option that best fits their current needs. Remind them that their choices will — certain exceptions notwithstanding — remain in place for an entire year. If their choice doesn’t meet their budget or needs, they’ll generally have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to make changes.
OUTLINE THE VALUE OF YOUR PLAN OPTIONS
As necessary as the process is, employees don’t always take the time to sort through their options. They may take it for granted. You should explain how the benefits you provide contribute to their total compensation. In addition, it would help to let employees know how they can reduce their overall benefit costs, for instance, by participating in a wellness program.
Also, if you’re considering a significant change, such as switching to a high deductible plan option, be extremely clear with your employees about what that involves. Explain the plan options so that they know exactly what to expect.
DON’T OVERLOOK COMPLIANCE
While it does provide widespread healthcare access, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is anything but simple. It requires employers to report certain information about health insurance to the IRS (information it uses to administer premium tax credits) while also providing covered individuals with an annual statement. Implementing compliant plans can pose a challenge for busy HR personnel with many other competing responsibilities on their plate. Make sure you are fully aware of deadlines for communicating enrollment options. Compliance should be at the forefront of your Open Enrollment planning. It isn’t something you can tack on at the end of the process.
THE HELP YOU NEED IS JUST A CLICK AWAY
In a highly competitive job market, employee benefits are a great way to attract, retain, and motivate employees. By preparing for Open Enrollment in advance, you can help solidify your company’s overall offering while strengthening your relationship with employees and boosting overall morale.
That said, at Health & Benefits Partners, we know how confusing Open Enrollment can be. And we’re here to guide you through it. Our experienced specialists are experts at helping small businesses navigate the often-confusing aspects of health insurance.
Contact us today for more information about getting started this Open Enrollment period.