How HR Teams Can Create A Successful Open Enrollment Season

Employees deserve guidance every step of the way

With open enrollment fast approaching, it’s time for HR teams to start planning how they can have a successful season. Open enrollment offers employers a fantastic opportunity to promote their healthcare and benefits offerings and educate employees so that they can more confidently choose the health plan that best fits their individual situations.

Open enrollment season can be stressful for employees, employers, and their HR teams. Meeting employees where they are at, in terms of healthcare literacy and financial planning, is vital to ensure that employees are making the best long-term decisions for their healthcare and financial security.

To be successful, HR teams should keep the following considerations in mind:

1. Reflect on Last Year’s Enrollment

Choosing the right health insurance is a difficult financial decision for many people. Several studies show that people routinely pick bad plans for themselves, even choosing options that impact their finances significantly in negative ways. To solve this problem, review last year’s successes and failures and brainstorm how to improve this year’s open enrollment.

HR teams should meet with relevant internal and external stakeholders (such as TPAs, consultants, and communicators) to evaluate last year’s open enrollment performance. Were enrollment goals achieved? What feedback, if any, was received from employees before, during, and after enrollment? What types of questions did your HR team or call center receive? What worked well, and where can improvements be made? Knowing where teams are in this year’s planning and any challenges they may face will enable HR to create a meaningful plan for this year.

2. Focus on Healthcare Literacy

According to a study by Optavise, 22% of workers said they want to know how to choose a health plan. Part of the reason Americans struggle with healthcare literacy is that too many consumers take a “do-it-yourself” approach to healthcare education. Optavise also found that 34% of respondents had educated themselves about their insurance benefits through online or other resources, rather than turning to benefit experts. Just 30% had learned about health insurance from their employer’s HR team (down from 37% in 2021). And 21% had learned from a third-party benefits educator or other resource provided by their employer, up from 16% last year.

Employees who understand how to navigate the system (i.e., receiving regular preventive care, choosing in-network providers, comparing costs, etc.) can make more informed long-term care choices to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on healthcare treatments and services to improve their overall well-being. Knowing that healthcare literacy can improve physical and financial health, HR teams must help increase their employees’ health literacy levels. Open enrollment can serve as the gateway to start this conversation.

The best way HR teams can begin this dialogue is by offering additional support around open enrollment. Offering virtual or in-person one-on-one meetings can provide a confidential, personalized forum for employees to get answers about their benefits packages. Support tools can include a virtual benefits fair, links to a year-round benefits site housing information and tools regarding different plans, and personal enrollment support. Keep in mind that even though open enrollment is the start of the conversation, HR teams must communicate about benefits year-round to have the greatest impact on their employees.

3. Be Mindful of Enrollment Tool Limitations

While assessing how to support employees as they learn about and select their benefit options for the coming year, HR teams need to understand both the benefits and limitations of the self-service tools available. While digital tools can help employees determine a rough estimate of healthcare costs, these tools cannot take each individual scenario into account. It can be difficult for online tools to factor in variables such as prescription costs, chronic illnesses, or family planning choices.

Concierge-level services for employees can provide more comprehensive, in-depth support during open enrollment. Although self-service enrollment tools can connect employees to a live person if they need assistance, employers should offer conversations as a first option and ensure that in-person support is a priority. Once employees understand the costs for and coverage under each benefit option includes, HR teams or benefits experts can then help employees who may not feel confident in their own abilities pick the right plan for their needs. Offering personal conversations offset the limitations of virtual support tools and build employee loyalty and appreciation.

By keeping these three considerations in mind, HR teams are sure to have a successful open enrollment season. Focusing on a seamless, efficient, and effective process will help reduce stress and ensure all employees get the help they need to make the best healthcare decisions possible. Because healthcare is a journey, employees deserve guidance every step of the way. Every employer should take steps to encourage smart, cost-effective decision-making this season to have a successful open enrollment season and more educated employees year-round.

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Kim Buckey is the Vice President of Client Services at Optavise (formerly DirectPath).
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