Open Enrollment 2022: Prepare With These Timelines and Important Dates

The 2022 open enrollment season is here. Access important dates and a range of timelines that you and your staff can use to have a successful OE.

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Open enrollment is undergoing a major transformation — shifting sharply to the virtual arena as employers increasingly embrace remote work. Even before this seismic shift, open enrollment had a reputation for being a demanding time for employers in general. Now that open enrollment 2022 has arrived, employers with remote and/or onsite workers can expect challenges in some shape or form.

One of these challenges is keeping up with key dates impacting the 2022 open enrollment season. To help you stay on course, we created a list of important dates — including open enrollment start and end dates. Moreover, we offer a range of timelines that you and your employees can use to better navigate open enrollment.

Feel free to click the links below to jump to specific sections.

What “open enrollment” means

Open enrollment start and end dates

Open enrollment 2022 timelines for employers (starting 90 days before OE)

Open enrollment 2022 timelines for employees (starting 80 days before OE)

For employers

What “open enrollment” means

Open enrollment is an employer-designated period of time during which employees can elect or change their employer-sponsored benefit options.

Open enrollment is an employer-designated period of time during which employees can elect or change their employer-sponsored benefit options — such as medical, dental, and life insurance; flexible spending accounts; and ancillary benefits like pet insurance or legal services.

Open enrollment occurs once per year. So, if an employee misses the open enrollment deadline, they will have to wait until the next open enrollment season — unless they experience a qualifying life event (such as marriage, childbirth, or loss of health coverage). A qualifying life event allows the employee to make elections or changes to their benefits during the Special  Enrollment Period (SEP), which occurs outside of the regular open enrollment season.

There’s another type of open enrollment, which involves the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare health coverage. Individuals who do not have health insurance through their employer can get ACA coverage through the federal marketplace or their state-run marketplace. To get coverage through the marketplace, individuals must sign up during the open enrollment window, unless they have a qualifying life event — which makes them eligible for the SEP.

Open enrollment start and end dates

Employer-sponsored benefits

Most employers will hold open enrollment 2022 in late November or early December 2021, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Many benefit plans operate on a calendar-year basis, with the calendar year starting January 1 and open enrollment typically happening in November. However, some companies start open enrollment as early as September or October.

For most employers, open enrollment lasts anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.

Many benefit plans operate on a calendar-year basis, with the calendar year starting January 1 and open enrollment typically happening in November. However, some companies start open enrollment as early as September or October.

ACA individual coverage

The federal open enrollment period for ACA individual coverage in 2022 starts November 1, 2021 and ends January 15, 2022. For coverage starting January 1, 2022, individuals must enroll by December 15, 2021. These dates apply in states that utilize the federal ACA marketplace. Below is a list of these states.

In some states that have their own marketplace, the open enrollment period ends before or after the federal open enrollment period. Below is a list of these states.

Keep in mind that some states have their own Special Enrollment Period deadline which may differ from the federal SEP deadline. In Washington DC, open enrollment starts November 1, 2021 and ends January 31, 2022.

Open enrollment 2022 timelines for employers (starting 90 days before OE)

The timelines below are designed to help you prepare for open enrollment — beginning 90 days before open enrollment and ending when coverage starts. You can customize the information to fit your unique business needs.

80-90 days before: Establish a plan and goals for open enrollment

This is when you reflect on the year so far and decide which (if any) benefits changes need to happen.

You will need to figure out how many employees are eligible for benefits. Also, consider these questions when aligning your company goals with your benefits strategy:

  • Are you and your employees satisfied with your current benefits structure?
  • Are you and your employees happy with the current carrier and their provider network?
  • Do you foresee business changes that may impact your financial situation with respect to benefits allocation?
  • Have you experienced any major change in your workforce? (e.g., adopting a fully remote or hybrid model, new out-of-state offices or employees, change of company name, merger, etc.)

In addition:

  • Benchmark data for companies of similar size and in similar locations.
  • Determine federal versus state COBRA requirements.
  • Confirm who will serve as point(s) of contact for employees’ benefits questions.
  • Give your employees an open enrollment schedule that contains key dates.

60-80 days before: Evaluate broker package rates

This is when you shop around for plans, compare and secure pricing, and finalize your company budget line items for benefits.

  • Assess benefits renewal packages with your broker.
  • Follow up with your broker as they gather quotes from current and alternative carriers.
  • Collaborate with your broker to ensure plan options meet ACA requirements and are compliant with state and local ordinances.
  • Review usage rates, costs, and availability of additional perks or programs you will offer throughout the enrollment period — such as wellness programs, commuter benefits, FSA, HSA, etc.

50-60 days before: Finalize plan selections for the upcoming year

This is when the HR team and other decision makers determine which company-approved benefit plans will be rolled out for the following year’s coverage.

  • Team up with decision makers to review plan options for the upcoming year, as prepared by your broker.
  • Map out and finalize selections for the upcoming year and confirm with your broker.
  • Coordinate with your broker to provide educational resources to employees during open enrollment — e.g., FAQs, glossary, open enrollment booklet, plan details, etc.

40-50 days before: Prepare for open enrollment

This is when the HR team focuses on communicating and educating employees on open enrollment dates and plan options.

  • Update company calendar with important open enrollment dates and deadlines.
  • Work with your broker to create and distribute summaries of plan options.
  • Review open enrollment dates and benefits plan changes and costs.
  • Inform employees of upcoming open enrollment dates.
  • Announce new perks or programs (e.g., wellness programs, commuter benefits, etc.).

30-45 days before: open enrollment is live!

This is when the HR team strives to ensure that employees make their benefit selections before the open enrollment deadline. We recommend staying in constant communication with employees to help ensure all employees elect or decline coverage.

  • Remind your employees that open enrollment is starting.
  • Provide office hours, points of contact, or shared resources for responding to employee inquiries.
  • Verify that employees have made their benefits selections.

30 days before: Submit benefits selections to insurance carrier

This is when — after you’ve gathered all employees’ benefits selections — you work with your broker for final approval.

  • Submit the group application and employee plan selections to the insurance carrier.
  • Promptly address any issues from your broker or carrier.
  • Continue to follow up with your broker or carrier until everything is approved.

Day 0: Coverage begins

Congrats! This is when your new benefits coverage begins for employees. Changes to rates and plans will occur at this time.

  • Update your employee handbook to include the most recent benefits information.
  • Verify that the respective employees received insurance ID cards.
  • Ensure employees’ benefits deductions are properly entered in the payroll system.
  • Make sure employees know whom to contact in case they need additional information or assistance.

Over the next 2-4 weeks

Look back on what worked and what didn’t work during the 2022 open enrollment season. Write down your observations. It’s important to do this while the experience is still fresh in your mind.

Open enrollment 2022 timelines for employees (starting 80 days before OE)

The timelines below are designed to help your employees prepare for open enrollment — beginning 80 days before open enrollment and ending when coverage starts. You can customize the information to fit your unique business needs.

60-80 days before: Determine previous and future benefits needs and expenses

  • Review previous year’s medical, dental, and vision expenses.
  • Identify doctor(s), prescriptions, and other required expenses for the next year.
  • Examine previous year’s FSA and HSA spending and forecast next year’s expenses.
  • Decide which family members will be on your employer-sponsored benefit plan.

45-50 days before: Communication during benefits roll-out

  • Create a list of benefits questions to review with your employer or HR administrator.
  • Attend company learning session(s) on new benefits or changes to existing benefits.
  • Read company-provided benefits materials, including plan summaries and brochures.
  • Add important dates and deadlines to your personal calendar.
  • Identify which plans align best with your healthcare providers and expenses.
  • Review changes to HSA, FSA limits, co-pays, premiums, and deductibles.
  • Discuss plan options with your partner/spouse, if applicable.

Before open enrollment starts, fill out the following:

Selection period is: ___________. You must enroll or decline by: ___________.

30-45 days before: open enrollment is live!

  • Select and enroll in your medical, dental, and vision plans (can be done via mobile if using Zenefits)
  • Choose your FSA or HSA contribution amounts.
  • Enroll in additional perks or programs based on anticipated usage.

After coverage begins 

  • Ensure you received ID cards for applicable medical, dental, and vision plans.
  • Inform your HR administrator if you have not received the ID cards.

After first paycheck

  • Check your pay stub. Are your benefits deductions accurate?
  • Let your manager or payroll department know if you have questions regarding your benefits deductions.

For employers

Craving an easier way to do open enrollment? Stay organized this season with Zenefits’ dynamic open enrollment checklist template tool, which you can find here.

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