How to Master Remote Open Enrollment

Managing open enrollment doesn’t have to be a headache. Learn how you can streamline your remote open enrollment here.

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Communicating and following up with workers about their healthcare coverage wasn’t easy in the traditional work setting. But in the new world of work, HR managers and small business owners have to figure out how to help their in-office and remote employees with open enrollment.

And employees want to be involved. Thanks to the pandemic, 75% of workers were more interested in their benefits in 2020. And nearly half of those surveyed in the same study said they believed open enrollment was more important than ever.

But for both employees and employers, open enrollment is hardly clear-cut. Shifting coverage costs, penalties, and plan eligibilities are confusing for everyone involved. For small businesses looking to simplify their selection workflow for remote or partially remote employees, communication is even more important.

To cut through the noise and master open enrollment, it can help to break the process down.

Explaining open enrollment

No matter which form of communication you use, you’ll want to keep all explanations related to open enrollment simple.

No matter which form of communication you use, you’ll want to keep all explanations related to open enrollment simple. This is because, first, your employees are focused on work. Also, the health insurance marketplace is often convoluted — your workers don’t need more to stress about.

For new hires, you may need to explain what open enrollment is. Open enrollment is the time of year when employees are allowed to choose, drop, or change employer-sponsored healthcare plans. It begins November 1st and ends December 15th for most states, although some start as early as October 1st. It includes both private health insurance and health insurance marketplace options.

Do you need to provide health insurance coverage?

It must be noted that small businesses with less than 50 full-time employees aren’t required to offer health coverage. However, choosing to pay a percentage could give your business a competitive edge. In addition, small business owners can receive a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit if they offer plans through the Small Business Health Options Program.

Eligible employers can apply for insurance any time of the year through this program. Once enrolled, an employer can make changes to current benefits with the same insurer once per year. Employees and their dependents can be added or removed at any time during the year.

Complying with rules and regulations

One of the most confusing aspects of health insurance plans is the difference between the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. But both can have a significant impact on your employees’ monthly premium.

Your deductible is the minimum out-of-pocket cost before the insurance kicks in. The amount you have to spend is entirely dependent on your specific plan.

An out-of-pocket maximum is a yearly limit that you may have to spend for healthcare services under your health insurance plan. There is an annual limit on total enrollee cost sharing for essential health benefits (EHB) that begins on or after January 1st. For 2022, the limits are $8,700 for an individual and $17,400 for a family. Employees should review their plans out-of-pocket maximums to ensure that they comply with the limits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

High deductible health plans, or HDHPs, must be compatible with a health savings account or HSA. According to the law, an HDHP out-of-pocket maximum must not exceed the ACA’s limit. If a plan uses multiple service providers to administer benefits it should be confirmed to coordinate all essential health benefit claims across the plans service providers with a combined limit that does not exceed the yearly maximum.

Preventative care benefits

Another thing to keep in mind when speaking with your employees about healthcare packages is preventative care benefits. Preventive care helps to detect and possibly prevent medical problems before they become serious. At the same time, preventive care can save employees and employers money down the road.  If your organization includes preventative care benefits, encourage workers to use them. Some preventative care benefits include:

  • Blood pressure screening
  • Depression screening
  • Dietician advice for adults at risk of chronic disease
  • Autism screening for toddlers
  • Iron supplements for infants at risk for anemia
  • Hepatitis B screening
  • HIV screening

Keeping your employees in the loop

With all of this information, it’s easy to see why employees’ eyes glaze over. So how you decide to help them digest this information is crucial. And the first step is to get feedback.

  1. Before you do anything, you’ll want to engage your employees in a brief survey to understand what group health plans may be favorable.
  2. Once you get the initial results, you’ll want to realign your small business health insurance options with your broker during the renewal period.
  3. While you hash out the details, make sure to add the Open Enrollment dates to the staff calendar and let everyone know about the process. If you are using an online task management tool for your remote team, it can be helpful to assign employees tasks of when their decisions might be due.
  4. Consider setting your calendar deadlines in advance of the hard deadline dates. This will ensure that all employee selections are made on time. If your company also offers health insurance to dependents, this is especially important.
  5. Finally, once you know your plan details, create a summary with your broker. For easy reading, create a bullet-point list, including the cost of coverage, employee premiums, network information, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums.

Whenever a company changes its group health insurance options, employees will want to ask questions. It’s a good idea to have an open door policy or allow for virtual meetings.

Once your employees have reviewed their plans and submitted their selections, it is time to change insurance carriers. At this point, you need to make sure that deductions for the new plans have been added to the payroll workflow and that the employee handbook contains the final plan summaries.

Whenever a company changes its group health insurance options, employees will want to ask questions. It’s a good idea to have an open door policy or allow for virtual meetings.

Consider automating your process

Attempting to create an error free workflow without automation is close to impossible. With an automated benefit system, existing employees can easily review information, select their preferred plan, and make changes to their personal data when a qualifying life event occurs. At the same time, automated employer contributions will effortlessly calculate the deductions for each participating employee.

There are so many moving pieces to consider during the open enrollment, and given the tight time frame, every second counts. Automation can help you streamline the process for everyone involved.

Get your 2021 open enrollment checklist

When it comes to open enrollment, the key is not to overwhelm your employees — or yourself. Clear communication with your in-office and remote team should take priority. And providing checklists to your employees with firm deadlines can give them the structure they need to select their plan on time.

For more on how you can master remote open enrollment, check out our free ultimate checklist.

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