5 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Open Enrollment

5 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment can be an overwhelming period for both employers and employees. The season brings brokers and HR professionals an annual administrative headache with stress factors of the options of new plans and shifts in the level of participation.

It is a good strategic move to monitor what is working for your competitors and adapt some of their methods and techniques to maximize your own performance and growth. Here are 5 things you can learn from your competitors about open enrollment.

1) Plan Ahead, Start Early

Communicate early & often – don’t bombard your clients with loads of information at one time. Provide them with the dates of Open Enrollment, an overview of changes, and what this means to them.

Communicate clearly – don’t make assumptions about how well everyone already understands their benefit plans. We fight an endless employee benefits battle with half of the effort towards finding ways to communicate offerings that are understandable and easy to grasp. Make difficult benefit decisions easier by keeping everything organized and easy to follow with tips, guides, and checklists. Use Open Enrollment as an opportunity to listen to your clients to see what they do and do not understand.

2) Don’t Rely on One Communication Strategy

Workplace demographics can be very diverse, with differing preferences. Not all participants are the same, and the benefits they require will differ. This diversity allows you to create more personalized and targeted messages. Tailor messages to specific plans while presenting in the clearest and simple format. Create a 1-page ‘Quick Guide’ for your clients outlining the benefits and disadvantages of each plan option providing a clear insight into advantages, costs, and expectations.

Participants learn differently and at various speeds. They have their own preferences of how to receive communication. Deliver messages through different types of communication channels (email, social media, text messages, videos/webinars, blogs, message boards, FAQs, mailers, direct meetings, etc.). Meet your clients where THEY are, not where it is easiest.

Work with clients to enhance employee engagement.

  • Give a Lunch and Learn about topics like the difference between HSA, HRA, and FSA.
  • Hold a raffle or give door prizes to the first 25 people to complete enrollment.
  • Provide Open Enrollment counseling. Multiple factors go into someone’s health plan decision from comparing options to spouse’s plans, to family and lifestyle changes. Host a ‘Family Day’ for employees to include their spouses. Educate employees on their healthcare options, benefits summaries, changes in plans, important deadlines, and offer guidance to choosing the best plan for their family.
  • Use social media to give clients tips on healthcare plans, the enrollment process, or unseen features of their health plan.

Offer an online learning center portal to clients filled with articles and video courses to help clients and their employees explore and learn more about new or existing benefits that are being offered. Take advantage of the employees’ competitive instincts by giving various rewards to the employees who complete the courses.

3) Regardless of Whether Great or Awful News, Give Your Clients Timely Feedback

There are so many online tools that can help you deliver better and faster customer service and help to better your time management strategies.

Check out these FREE tools to use and recommend to your clients:

Cam Scanner – scan documents directly from mobile device – and make them look like real scans, instead of rushing to send out documents, can get it done on the go

Dropbox – store documents in the cloud and have them accessible from anywhere – have client folders in order and handy whenever needed

PrimoPDF – app to convert to, or print a PDF document

PDF Merge – merge PDF’s into one singular PDF file

PDFescape – perfect solution for anyone who has a digital version of their signature on computer and would like to add to PDF documents – upload any PDF doc, add signatures, text, and dates where necessary

Google Hangout – face-to-face video conferencing, screen sharing, instant messaging, podcasts, mastermind calls

Sign Easy – a tool for those who are always on the go. Create an account, “draw” your signature, and start signing documents from any mobile device (Free Trial Available)

FREE tools to help with time management:

Buffer – save time and simplify your social media routine by scheduling posts on all your social media networks.

RoboForm – password management app, works as a browser extension and allows you to easily save and store login to websites with a click of a button.

BuzzSomo – analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor, provides content discovery/blog ideas, content alerts, competitor research (plugin domain and see which content they’ve created that has done well with social shares)

Grammarly – this tool helps to make sure everything you type is clear, effective and mistake-free.

Awesome ScreenShot – image annotation tool, a browser extension that allows you to take a snapshot of a part, or all your screen, add annotations, comments, blur sensitive info, and share with one-click uploads.

4) Think Beyond Open Enrollment

Never stop communicating! Keep your clients in tune with what is happening and changing on a continuous basis. Once an employee is enrolled, they will need help using their chosen plan. Provide your clients with ‘After Enrollment Tips’ through help videos, webinars, telephone support, or hold educational meetings.

When Open Enrollment season ends, start planning for the next year. Look back at last year’s process to determine what went well and what could be improved. How effective was the communication strategy? Was quality customer service delivered? What were the most time-consuming tasks and how can they be simplified for next year? What were the top questions asked by clients? Knowing what your challenges are and will be will help you revamp your strategy for next year.

Measure your success by meeting with clients to review what they liked, didn’t like, or would change for next year to see which strategies worked and didn’t work. Act on this feedback to streamline a more efficient process for next year.

5) Have a Partner to Help

Utilize a human capital management software to add value to your clients, remain competitive, stay on top of changes with updates to keep clients compliant with laws and regulations, worry-free ACA reporting and filing, automatic broker alerts, and more. Consolidating your products onto one cloud-based platform allows you to add or remove products when needed as well as deliver a streamlined enrollment experience to your clients.

For more information on how Highflyer HR can provide effective open enrollment solutions, Contact us at (844) 398-7800 or getstarted@highflyerhr.com.

6 Open Enrollment Items For Your To-Do List

6 Open Enrollment Items For Your To-Do List

When many of us think of fall, our mind wanders to the changing colors on trees, raking leaves and football.  Human resource and benefit professionals must have one more thing top of mind–open enrollment.  Annually, HR and benefit professionals must provide employees with options for the next plan year. The to-do list should include the following:

Summary of Benefits & Coverage (SBC). The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires you to provide an SBC to all applicants and enrollees for all group health plans, except for those that are excepted benefits under HIPAA (e.g., stand-alone dental, vision, most Health FSAs). This requirement is effective for open enrollment periods that started on or after September 23, 2012.

Grandfathered Plan Notices. Employers must send this notice to all participants if the plan is to maintain its grandfathered status. Grandfathered plans do not have to comply with some of the rules related to the ACA. However, they must comply with other rules, like annual and lifetime limits, dependent coverage up to age 26, rescission and limits on preexisting condition exclusions (PCEs).

Patient Protection Disclosures. Also under the ACA, employers must notify participants of their right to designate any primary care provider who participates in the network. If the plan allows for the designation of a primary care provider for a child or for an obstetric/gynecological care provider, these must also be included in the notice.

Medicare Part D Creditable Coverage Notices. All employer-sponsored plans that offer a prescription drug benefit must annually notify participants as to whether their coverage is creditable or non-creditable. The deadline to mail these notices is October 15. The Medicare Part D annual enrollment period is October 15 through December 7. This will require notices to go out prior to most plans being finalized. Any changes to creditable status once a plan is finalized will require another round of notices to be sent.

NOTE:  This notice requirement is only part of what the plan sponsor is required to do for compliance.  Please refer to CMS for online reporting instructions as well as additional requirements for these notices.

COBRA Qualified Beneficiary Communications. COBRA regulations, as amended by HIPAA require many notices; one of those is the Open Enrollment Notification. This requirement states that employers must provide the same rights to COBRA Continuees during an open enrollment period that is offered to active employees. This notice is required even if the only change is the COBRA rates.  The open enrollment packet must be sent to:

  • Possible Electees (individuals in their 60-day election period)
  • Electees (individuals who have elected but have not yet paid)
  • Continuees (individuals who have elected and paid)

Health FSAs. Health FSAs are another open enrollment challenge. If the Health FSA is a HIPAA-excepted benefit and the employer need only offer COBRA when the FSA account is underspent, then the COBRA obligation ends at the end of the first plan year. However, if the employer somehow does not qualify for the limited obligation, the employer must provide the opportunity to elect Health FSA coverage for the next plan year or until COBRA has been exhausted. Also, if the COBRA period is also covered by USERRA because of a military leave of absence, the employer must continue to offer the Health FSA.

For plan years 2014, Health FSAs have a $2,500 salary reduction contribution limit. This limit was not changed for 2015. Plan documents and Summary Plan Descriptions must be revised if they weren’t upda

Can you prove your ACA compliance?

Can you prove your ACA compliance?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandates and deadlines are putting plenty of fear, worry and doubt into those who must comply with reporting requirements.  Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) should be especially aware of their ACA obligations to employees and the IRS.

Enforcement

Since the ACA became a law, the IRS has managed over 40 provisions regarding implementation of ACA.

Perhaps the most pressing from an employer’s viewpoint is play or pay.  Large employers (50+ FTEs) who do not offer coverage for all of their full-time employees, offer unaffordable minimum essential coverage or offer plans with high out-of-pocket costs could face tax penalties.

The employer would also be subject to a tax penalty if there is at least one full-time employee certified as having purchased health insurance through an exchange and was eligible for a tax credit or subsidy.

Fines

Employer fines imposed for ACA noncompliance are referred to as employer shared responsibility paymentsThe full details of who will have to pay, how much to pay and under what circumstances is pretty complicated, but rest assured those fines can be substantial. The IRS official Q&A about this contained 56 entries when it was updated as of May 20, 2015.

Data

ALEs should have been recording and compiling detailed, monthly information as of January 1, 2015, in order to meet filing requirements. Some required data includes:

  • Federal Employer Identification Numbers (FEIN) within a controlled group
  • Total employees
  • Total full-time employees
  • Total months covered
  • Validation that minimum essential coverage was offered, affordable and met the minimum value requirements
  • Personal information, including Social Security Number and birth date

Forms

Required reporting will be done via four IRS forms:

  • 1094-B (Transmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns)
  • 1094-C (Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns)
  • 1095-B (Health Coverage)
  • 1095-C (Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage).

ALEs will file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C, while the coverage provider or self-insured plan sponsor has the legal obligation to furnish forms 1094-B and 1095-B to the plan participants.

Deadlines

Full-time equivalent (FTE) employees must receive their completed forms by February 1, 2016 (due to January 31 falling on Sunday). The paper reporting forms filed with the IRS must be sent in by February 29 (due to leap year) or March 31 for electronic filing.  Employers should already be implementing a solution that can manage ACA data and report compliance.

Be prepared

The challenges of ACA compliance can be met with the right solution that manages employee data, time and attendance, HR, payroll, and benefits so an employer is able to quickly review data. If you use outside assistance, make sure they provide a defined project plan to ensure your compliance.

Action plan

  • Know exactly what should be done
  • Define a process
  • Manage and compile data
  • Understand the forms and instructions
  • Meet the deadlines

The bottom line?  Be ready – you have to comply!

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