Employee Open Enrollment: 5 Tips to Avoid the Chaos

Employee Open EnrollmentEmployee open enrollment for 2018 benefit plans is consuming the days of health care brokers, employers and Human Resources’ staff. But it is possible to conduct benefit plan enrollment without mountains of errors and frustrated employees.

Here are five tips to avoid the chaos and streamline sign-ups for next year:

1. Create a Realistic Schedule for Employee Open Enrollment. 

Employee Open Enrollment

  • Your open enrollment period should end no later than 30 days prior to the end of your plan year or renewal date. Once you determine the ending date of open enrollment, back up from there to schedule open enrollment meetings, print forms or materials, distribute or mail open enrollment packets, etc.
  • Will your members need new ID cards? New ID cards are typically issued due to the addition of new provisions or services, plan option or deductible/copay changes, change in pharmacy vendor, etc.*
  • Are your plan options changing? This is especially important if you are adding or deleting a plan. Allow time for employee education. Even if your plan is not changing, employees still must carefully review their options to ensure their choices will meet their health needs.

2. Collect All Required Information for Each Plan Participant (employee or dependent).

This may include information for each plan participant such as:

  • Last Name, First Name and Middle Initial (exactly as provided in previous enrollments).
  • Social Security Number (unique and accurate identifying information for each dependent).
  • Address.
  • Date of Birth (unique and accurate identifying information for each dependent).
  • Gender.
  • Hire Date (if an employee).
  • Coverage Effective Date.
  • Product Coverage (Medical, Dental, Flex).
  • Date of Termination, if applicable, and Reason for Term
       (especially needed for COBRA).
  • E-mail address (to promote programs and services available through benefits plan).

Unique and accurate identifying information must be entered for each dependent. Using member information to represent a dependent will create errors/issues with enrollment.

3. Remind Employees: “Good Data In = Good Data Out.”

Employee Open Enrollment

  • Stress the importance of completing all fields on any enrollment or waiver forms. It’s in every plan participant’s best interest to review and verify new and existing data during open enrollment since it directly affects coverage for the upcoming plan year.
  • Decisions regarding participants’ eligibility and coverage under the health plan—as well as that of their dependents—are made based on the information provided during open enrollment.

4. Educate Employees about the “Not-So Flexible” Guidelines of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs).

  • Educate your employees on the advantages of FSAs.
  • FSAs are “use-it-or-lose-it” accounts. Contributions made to an FSA during a calendar year can be used only for eligible expenses incurred during the same year—unless your plan provides for either a grace period or a carryover.
  • If your plan doesn’t provide for a carryover, employees need to be aware that any money remaining in an FSA account after the claim filing period at the end of the year (and after the grace period, if applicable) is forfeited in accordance with IRS regulations.

5. If Your Employees Have Flex Debit Cards, Remind Them to Save All Receipts for Card Purchases.

Employee Open Enrollment

  • Since a flex debit card deducts payment for an eligible health care expense directly from an FSA account, employees may think that saving health care receipts is unnecessary.
  • Some claims for reimbursement, however, may require substantiation. Encourage employees to save all receipts for flex debit card purchases in case they receive a substantiation request or their tax return is audited by the IRS.
  • Employees should hold on to their cards even if the allocated FSA total has already been spent.**

*This information should be entered exactly as it was provided in previous enrollments. If you discover an error, now is the time to make those changes. 

**The only exceptions to this would be if an employee no longer contributes to an FSA or if FSA participants receive new debit cards for the next plan year.MedCost

Sign up for blogOur next blog will contain five more tips to avoid chaos during employee open enrollment. Subscribe to our blog to receive it automatically (go to top of page). 

5 More Tips for a Smooth Open Enrollment

open enrollmentDoes open enrollment for your Human Resources department seem like “Nightmare on Employment Street?” Our first post listed five practical tips to streamline the open enrollment period for annual benefits. Check out these five additional best practices to chase the confusion away:

 1. Make sure you provide all of the data requested by your claims administrator.

Inaccurate or incomplete data can result in time-consuming, frustrating mistakes. Remember to enter information exactly as provided in previous enrollments. Unique and accurate identifying information must be entered for each dependent.

 2. Collect waiver forms from your employees.

For ACA reporting and Department of Labor requirements, you as the employer need to keep proof of waived coverage on file. Here is a Compliance Assistance Guide from the U. S. Department of Labor that offers more information. MedCost provides our clients with a generic form as part of our benefits’ services, if clients do not have one.

3. If you submit updated enrollment data on paper forms or by spreadsheet, information on new hires, changes, and terminations is all that is needed.

It may seem counterintuitive, but full enrollment data is not required and can actually slow down the input process for your claims administrator.

Note: This does not apply to clients that electronically submit enrollment data via 834 transaction. 

4. When open enrollment is over, it’s over—no extensions.

health insurance noticesStick with the open enrollment deadline you set. Announce the deadline and remind employees of it several times during the open enrollment period. It is then the employees’ responsibility to complete the required enrollment process by the deadline. Remember, open enrollment is a finite time period, not an ongoing process.

5. Once you’ve collected enrollment data, submit it all at one time.

Submitting information piecemeal or in multiple spreadsheets that have to be merged or compared to previous submissions only increases the chance for errors. Avoid confusion with one complete submission of enrollment data.

Don’t let your open enrollment become a nightmare. Competent claims administrators can help advise you of all compliance requirements and deadlines. And turn your nightmares into sweet dreams.MedCost