Communicating the value of benefits is an age-old dilemma further complicated now that many employers are making big plan changes to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). As more and more employers move to high deductible health plans, making employees aware of how to use their benefits and take control of their health care consumption will be the key to cost savings. UBA’s white paper, "A Business Case For Benefits Communications,” addresses how best to reach employees, what they need to know, and how they prefer to receive the information. However, once you have educated your workforce, how do you enroll them efficiently and effectively in your plan options? UBA Partner Mike Humphrey, Senior Benefits Advisor at The Wilson Agency, has been guiding employers through the daunting task of enrolling hundreds or thousands of employees and their dependents for years. To keep open enrollment hassle and panic-free, he offers four basic tips for employers:
Going through thousands of sheets of paper to get the process done is part of what makes open enrollment a daunting process. Instead, think about your organization’s culture and environment (and your precious time); most likely it will make sense to automate the program. There is an additional expense, but it’s easily justified for larger employers. It will be easier for you, more accurate, and the majority of employees will prefer an online process to filling out paperwork.
While setting up an online open enrollment system, take the extra time to ensure that it is easy for employees to use. For example:
- Is everything easy to understand?
- Does entry of information flow nicely?
- Can the user save their progress and go back to make modifications at a later time?
- Does it automatically send the employee a confirmation statement after they have finished enrolling?
The choice of an online open enrollment system also depends on how educated your employees are about their benefit programs. However, even for a well-educated group of employees, we suggest a dictionary of applicable terminology (possibly have a definition pop up as you hover over words like deductible, co-pay, co-insurance, etc.). Video tutorials are also a popular way to show employees how to use the online system and to further guide them in their selection of health plan options.
If you have multiple HR offices and/or sub-companies, make sure that you have their buy-in before implementing the online system. Explain the cost and what you receive in return. If people see how it will benefit them, they’ll be more likely to support the initiative. And once they’re on board, be sure to have plenty of opportunities for training HR staff.