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Benefits Renewal Process Checklist: Steps to Take Before Open Enrollment Starts

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Sep 24, 2020
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open enrollment checklist

Your company-sponsored health plan is arguably the most important and valued employee benefit you can offer. It’s a proven tool that helps small businesses attract and retain top talent. Plus, it helps keep your most valued resource – your employees – healthy. It’s also one of a company’s largest annual expenditures. Taking all of those factors into consideration, decisions about your organization’s health plans aren’t ones you want to take lightly.

Steps to Take Before, During, and After Open Enrollment

So, when your company’s annual open enrollment season is coming up, planning is everything. The best-case scenario is to start at least 60 days before open enrollment is scheduled to begin, using the following checklist to help ensure your choices meet your business objectives, respond to employee needs and set the stage for a smooth open enrollment process.

Before Open Enrollment

  • Familiarize yourself with the benefits renewal process.
  • Reassess the goals you are trying to accomplish by offering medical coverage. Evaluate how well your current benefits package lines up with your company mission and objectives.
  • Analyze any workforce or fiscal performance changes that would inform decisions you might need to make around your health plan.
  • Take a look at concerns employees may have expressed, comments they have made or questions they have asked about your current health plans. If you haven’t gotten feedback from employees, ask them how satisfied they are with their current benefits packages. Factor in their thoughts as you make decisions for the year ahead.
  • Total the benefits costs for both the company and your employees to help decide what your company can afford next year. Decide what contribution structure you’ll put in place – that is, how much of the premium you’ll pay for each employee and how much the employee will be responsible for paying.
  • Refine your benefits goals and strategy based the on steps above.
  • Set a budget.
  • Gather rates for the upcoming annual contract period. Rates increase every year based on inflation, new physician and drug costs, fees for medical technologies and insureds’ use of the plan over the past year. If your company works directly with an insurance carrier or with a broker, you’ll need to proactively request pricing about 90 days before your existing contract is scheduled to end. If you work with a professional employer organization like Axcet HR Solutions, the PEO will gather those costs and provide them to you.
  • Decide which plans your company will offer employees for the next year. Most small businesses offer from two to five plans so workers have options in coverage and costs.

Sign Me Up

  • Create your employee communications strategy and timeline.
  • Decide how much of your enrollment process can be done online. Because of COVID-19’s impact, almost all companies will have to offer at least some online enrollment options going forward. Your PEO, insurance carrier or broker likely will have online enrollment programs your business can use.
  • Test new technology to ensure a smooth and positive employee experience.
  • Implement the employee communications strategy well before the open enrollment period. Early, ongoing communications are critical because they help employees understand their available options and choose the plans that best fit their personal needs.
  • Create any materials you need to communicate with employees – FAQs, videos, PowerPoint presentations, etc.
  • Share the open enrollment timeline with workers, explaining when they’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and when deadlines are scheduled.

eight tips to help your employees speak benefits

During Open Enrollment

  • Continue consistent communications with employees, giving them multiple opportunities to learn about their benefits options and ask questions. During open enrollment, host virtual or on-site benefits meetings and one-on-one meetings, as needed.
  • Provide any training needed for employees to correctly use new technology.
  • Give employees a statement of their current coverage, plan-specific changes and rates, brochures or other materials that explain their plan options.
  • Remind employees regularly about the enrollment deadline.

After Open Enrollment

  • Follow any health care reform provisions that affect your plan and employees.
  • Follow up with employees to make sure they received their new insurance ID cards (about 30 days after open enrollment).
  • Make sure all employees are clear about their benefits and don’t have outstanding questions.
  • Review whether your open enrollment period went smoothly, met employees’ needs and achieved the goals you wanted to achieve. Make notes about anything that didn’t go as planned so you can make adjustments next year.

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