October 20, 2020 — Blog

Plan for Open Enrollment During COVID-19

For many employees, open enrollment, during which they are asked to sign up for health insurance, change their plans and/or purchase voluntary benefits, can be intimidating. Any measures employers/plan sponsors can take to make this process easier for their plan members are valuable at any time, but especially so during COVID-19.  Here are some suggestions to plan for a successful open enrollment during the pandemic:

  1. Consider Virtual Open Enrollment, which was already happening prior to the pandemic. This could involve leveraging an online/video meeting platform through which remote meetings could be held.  Members would have the opportunity to speak with HR staff, as well as representatives from your insurance carrier, broker and/or benefits consultant.
  2. Provide Easy to Understand Product Information. This will give employees the opportunity to learn about different benefits and insurance products; their necessity, features, and associated costs. Then, during their remote session, they will be prepared to ask any questions they might have regarding products of interests and/or any potential changes they are considering. As part of this educational information, include a glossary of common insurance terms and related acronyms such as: HMO, PPO, HDHP, deductibles, co-pays, etc.
  3. Host a Virtual Benefits Webinar in advance of the open enrollment through which employees can listen to product specialists discussing different voluntary benefits, as well as answer any questions employees have regarding these and other products.
  4. Encourage Participation of Spouses and Other Family Members specifically since insurance is designed to provide protection for individuals and their families. Often, employees will make decisions regarding their insurance policies, retirement plans and other benefits by consulting with a spouse, parent or other trusted advisor.
  5. Be Certain to Anticipate FAQs such as: What are the benefits effective dates? Does a policy offer coverage for spouses and children? How are claims made and how long does it take for a claim to be paid? What happens to my coverage if I am furloughed or terminated?

The pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of health insurance and other voluntary benefits (e.g., paid family leave, disability, critical illness, etc.). Employees may be more focused on ensuring they are making the right decisions during the 2020 open enrollment period. Employer sponsored health coverage costs increased 5% in 2019 to over $20,500, with employees paying on average $6,015 toward the cost of this coverage (Kaiser Family Foundation). That is a great deal of money for many under financial stress due to the pandemic. Helping employees make wise choices and understand how different options can help them contain their costs is essential.