What Employers Need to do to Prepare for Open Enrollment

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s implications may have a big effect on the upcoming enrollment periods in the future. Experts predicted the first enrollment period to be the most difficult one in history. They are urging companies to approach the enrollment period prepared and to start planning now if they have not already done so. To help them formulate a plan, experts have provided an open enrollment checklist.

Consumer-driven health plans should be offered. These plans only continue growing in popularity. Nearly 40 percent of large companies offered these plans in 2013, and experts said within two years of that time they thought about 65 percent of employers would offer them.

Communicate plan options often to people who are newly eligible. Researchers found that more than 30 percent of companies still needed to take steps to comply with coverage extension requirements for workers putting in more than 30 hours per week. They encourage employers to begin communicating immediately with workers who are newly eligible for benefits. This includes new hires and workers who have moved from limited part-time hours to enough hours per week that they are eligible for company benefits. Employers should communicate with those who are eligible and tell them why they are eligible, what this means and how eligibility is calculated. After doing this, employees should be allowed to consider their options before making a decision. Employees who are not yet eligible for benefits should also have access to benefit information regarding what they can expect if and when they do become eligible. This information should be placed in a visible and common area of the workplace.

Put a strong emphasis on voluntary benefits. These benefits are very valuable to employees, and they should always be considered a part of any carefully planned benefits program. They are also good for settling the misconceptions employees may have about other types of plans. If employees are not eligible for employer-sponsored medical plans, voluntary benefits can still assist such workers.

Put an emphasis on mobile technology to promote accountability. Cost outlays and health benefit decisions should be the responsibilities of participants. Smart phone apps and special features that hold contacts and benefit information are very useful for advice and point of service needs.

Open enrollment should be used as a wellness campaign reinforcement opportunity. If there are any possible compliance penalties to be introduced, this is especially important. Some examples include higher premiums for people who do not use health screenings.

There are other steps employers can take to make enrollment periods easier and communicate the importance of coverage to eligible workers. Employees who are not eligible for employer-sponsored benefits should be provided with information about alternate coverage. To learn more or for answers to questions about existing plans, contact ACBI.

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