Open Enrollment

Communication that cuts through the noise and lets employees know what they need to consider and do.

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Whether your organization calls it Open Enrollment, Annual Enrollment, Benefits Enrollment or something else, it’s an important time of the year. Your employees count on you to communicate with them about their health care benefits and any changes they need to know about.

Effective employee communication and transparency are key to experiencing a successful enrollment period.

What is Open Enrollment?

Open Enrollment is the one time each year your U.S. employees can make changes to their benefits. If employees miss the enrollment deadline, they’ll have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to make benefit changes. There is an exception for a qualified life status change, or life event. These life events include things like getting married, having a baby or getting divorced.

Qualified life status changes allow employees to make benefit changes within a certain number of days following the qualifying event.

When is Open Enrollment for health care benefits?

Open Enrollment typically happens 2 to 3 months before the start of a new health care plan year. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), more than 3 out of 4 employers hold Open Enrollment in the fall. Benefit changes then take effect January 1 of the following year — the start of a new plan year.

Your Open Enrollment period may be different from that of Medicare or Marketplace (Affordable Care Act) coverage, and that’s fine. What’s important is that your employees understand when they must enroll to have the benefits they want for the coming year.

How communication prepares employees for Open Enrollment

At PartnerComm, we’ve found the best way to ensure your employees have a successful enrollment experience is by crafting an effective communication strategy. This includes focusing on what you want employees to think, feel and do during Open Enrollment.

For example, you may want to encourage migration to a particular medical insurance plan or reduce negativity about a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Or perhaps you want employees to try your enrollment site’s chat feature before calling your benefits center.

3 tips for communication success

  • Be direct and keep things simple. Explain complex benefits concepts and details using everyday language. SHRM has a helpful benefits glossary defining common health care benefit terms.
  • Have strong branding. Make sure your enrollment communication grabs attention and gets noticed.
  • Use diverse communication channels and media. People prefer to learn in different ways. They’ll lose interest if they get the same type of enrollment guide year after year. Videos, podcasts and interactive online decision-making tools are all great ways to help get your important messages across.

An Open Enrollment communication example

A leading health care organization, with more than 26 locations throughout the New York/New Jersey area, asked PartnerComm to create a strategy to ensure their Open Enrollment success. The company was making big changes to its health care benefits, which required one in five employees to change medical plans or administrators.

Specifically, the employer wanted to steer employees into its consumer-driven medical plans that provided in-network coverage only. They also wanted to improve the enrollment experience by offering more robust online health care management tools. Even with the changes, it was a passive enrollment period. Employees in plans that would no longer be offered were defaulted into different plans if they did not enroll.

PartnerComm facilitated strategy planning sessions, where we studied previous years’ enrollment campaigns, established realistic goals and clarified benefit changes. We also focused on identifying key messages and finalizing the Open Enrollment branding and theme.

As a result, more than 77% of employees actively enrolled — 15% more than the previous year. Usage of our 5-Minute Medical Plan Modeler was 39% higher than the previous year. By the end of Open Enrollment, 88% of employees enrolled in the consumer-driven medical plan offered.

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