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7 Tips for simplifying your open enrollment

Open enrollment (also called annual enrollment) should be a simple process. How do you create an effective, efficient process for your employees without oversimplifying or jeopardizing your strategy?

Our team identified seven key ways to simplify the enrollment experience for your people and meet your organization’s strategic goals.

1. Align your strategy

Setting tangible goals for your enrollment is vital, but if they don’t align to your enrollment tactics and strategy, your results may be ineffective. If your goal is to encourage participation in a high deductible health plan (HDHP) but the HDHP is not competitively priced, your strategy is not aligned with your goal and results may be unsuccessful. The same can be said about providing differentiation between plans. If you aim to increase participation in specific plans but fail to provide details to distinguish key components (deductibles, co-pays, etc.), employees may not know the difference and choose an unsuitable plan. In such cases, you must provide differentiation between plans or leverage technology to help employees see the distinctions.

Think about your measurable goals for your upcoming enrollment and consider the tactics you will implement to execute them.

  • What are you are trying to accomplish?
  • Are your execution strategies aligned?
  • How will they support your overall enrollment goals?

Aligning your goals with your strategy will set you up for success.

2. Make it personal

Communication during enrollment is key, and people respond more positively to messages that feel personally targeted toward them. You want your people to know that there are multiple options catered to what they need and want in a plan, and you need to communicate it clearly through the right mediums.

  • A quick note with a relatable situation, such as a blog from a CEO or postcard in the mail talking about a personalized family situation, makes employees feel recognized and helps them consider their plan options more.

Does your employee have a new baby on the way? Is a family member going off to college? Find ways to personally reach your audience and let them know that there is a situation for every employee and their family.

People like to feel special. Put some personality behind your enrollment and see how your results are impacted.

3. Strive for the right level of noise

Hearing feedback from your employees around the enrollment process isn’t always a negative thing. It’s better to know that your employees are actively taking control in the process rather than simply not participating. Chatter around your enrollment process can also be beneficial in bringing potential issues or concerns to light before they become retroactive and/or the enrollment period is over. Encourage your employees to get comfortable with talking about the right things, take action as soon as possible, and benefit from those proactive decisions later.

No chatter at all may mean that your employees may be forgetting to take actions, such as re-enrolling for an HSA or ensuring their doctor is still in-network after a move or a life event.

4. Only require meaningful action

The enrollment period is complicated. With so many plan options and ways to enroll, it’s easy to get distracted from what’s important and what’s not. Try to avoid preoccupying employees with questions that aren’t absolutely necessary for submittal, and if needed, make them as clear as possible. If your employee has indicated that he or she is not a smoker for the past five enrollment questionnaires, is it necessary to ask again?

To add to the simplicity, look at ways to automate enrollment. Can your forms be submitted online? Can you eliminate unnecessary paper copies or the need for a physical person to help answer the basic questions?

Create an experience for enrollment that is similar to what users may encounter in everyday life.

Consider including:

  • Real-time updates
  • Instantaneous assistance
  • Expert insights
  • Convenient accessibility

Look for ways to simplify and automate the enrollment process where possible.

5. Your people want suggestions

As the healthcare environment becomes more complex and more options are available, employees are looking for guidance during the enrollment process. Most employers have the tools and technology to turn those complexities into a more-easily understood process, but many are hesitant to provide guidance as they fear the legalities behind it. While some legal considerations do need to be addressed, there are acceptable ways to provide suggestions and guidance without providing concrete instruction during the decisionmaking process.

Only 50%

of employees know where to find their plan information and/or additional guidance.

Employers can use objective data to provide suggestions in forms that are not directly offering instruction, such as:

  • Providing cost modelers
  • Offering plan comparisons
  • Creating “people like me” scenarios to identify similar situations

35% of employees change their medical option when offered medical benefit suggestions—double than when they are not.

Employers see much more success when they proactively provide their people with general assistance during enrollment, resulting in smarter healthcare plan choices that are more aligned with individual/family specific needs.

6. Treat enrollment as your kick-off for the year

Open enrollment isn’t just a two-week project to tackle.

How many times have you prepared yourself for a large project and found that you took too much of an exhale afterward that perhaps caused you to get behind on next steps or set of projects? 8 Treat enrollment as the #6 kick-off for the year. Open enrollment isn’t just a two-week project to tackle.

Open enrollment is a huge feat for many organizations, but it can’t be seen as the only feat. Once enrollment has ended, there are additional things to prep for and execute, such as delivering participant plans to vendors, getting new HSA accounts open, and many others.

Treating those few weeks as the only two weeks of your year distracts you from proactively planning for the future—you may miss out on opportunities to build the foundation for next year’s success.

7. Plan for the unexpected

It’s not a matter of if something is going to happen, but when.

Contingency planning, to its core, is one of the most vital pieces of open enrollment. Unexpected mishaps always present themselves, whether it be a natural disaster, a system failure or a problem with call center staffing. It’s critical to take a look at your resources and ensure you have a dependable, collaborative partner to work with should the unexpected occur.

  • Do you understand your partner’s coverage should you have to rely on them for support?
  • Is your staffing flexible and in the right locations to guarantee business continuity?
  • Can training be provided quickly, on-demand, and virtually, if needed?

Working with a partner to develop a plan and being prepared to execute it is the most efficient route to follow when prepping for a seamless enrollment.

Because sometimes things get messy. Your open enrollment shouldn’t be.

It's time to simplify

Following these tips won’t guarantee a perfect enrollment, but it will simplify the process and promote a stress-free experience for you and your employees. Finding the right partner with the knowledge and substance to simplify your enrollment journey is the first step.

Alight is the number one benefits administration partner in the world. With our certified experts and valuable partnerships, we direct more than 12K unique healthcare designs for organizations of all sizes. Our capacity and flexibility guarantee you the proven process, expertise and technology you need to serve your organization, no matter how simple or complex.

Wherever you are in your benefits journey, Alight is here to support a successful, hassle-free experience.

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