Open Enrollment Period Is a Marathon: Be Prepared Year-Round

prepare for open enrollment period

Open enrollment period is the most stressful time of the year for you and your groups. During those last months, HR professionals try to present employees with the most qualified healthcare options, employees attempt to choose the best plan for themselves and their dependents, and you need to be ready to help at any time as their expert advisor. However, the work shouldn’t start in October. Open enrollment period is not a sprint, it’s a marathon you should be preparing for each quarter. In this week’s Broker Tool Belt, we share what you need to do each quarter to make the most of open enrollment, stay organized, and be successful during the next busy season.

Q1: Evaluate Your Open Enrollment Period Performance

Q1 is a critical time. The hard work for open enrollment period is done and it feels like the perfect time to take a break and give all your attention to ACA compliance. However, it’s crucial to fight that urge because this downtime gives you the perfect opportunity to evaluate your performance. As successful athletes do, once open enrollment season has passed, it’s time to look back, reflect on your actions, and determine the good and the bad.

Employees often find health care options confusing. For this reason, group administrators are required to offer ample guidance and prepare employees to make informed decisions. Did you offer your groups the help they needed and acted as the trusted advisor they deserve? Did you help eliminate the common frustrations open enrollment period provokes? In addition, evaluate the process. Did you spend most of your time proofing and chasing down enrollment forms? Did quoting take more time than it should?

Once you have answers to these questions, start introducing solutions. Every agency is different, but one common problem that arises during open enrollment period is the repetitive tasks that chew your time away. A technology solution would help you eliminate paper, make sure all information is correct, and make quoting easier. By introducing a benefits administration software, you’ll be able to present healthcare options in a more comprehensive way and help your groups succeed in the busiest time of the year.

Q2: Exercise Your Knowledge

Once you have examined your open enrollment period performance, you are ready to focus on the industry. You know what aspects need improvement in your process, but educating yourself on the ever-changing insurance landscape is essential to adapt your services to it. Ease has released the 2020 SMB Benefits & Employee Insights Report focusing on trends from the last 3 years (2017- 2019). Below, we share the 4 trends to keep in mind when building your next benefits offering: 

    • Individual and family medical premiums have been on the rise since 2017 and more brokers have been crafting multi-plan packages that keep costs down but expand coverage.
family medical premiums
Source: Ease 2020 SMB Benefits & Employee Insights Report
    • The number of employees enrolled in PPO and HDHP plans increased from 2017 to 2019. The workforce is transforming and the number of millennials and Gen Zers is rising. 
plan types elected by employees
Source: Ease 2020 SMB Benefits & Employee Insights Report
    • The number of worksite/voluntary benefit plans offered per employee has increased since 2017. Businesses are offering more voluntary benefits than before to offset some of the costs of healthcare. 
popular voluntary benefits
Source: Ease 2020 SMB Benefits & Employee Insights Report
    • There was employee growth in every single region of the country. Businesses in the South and the West grew about 50% and businesses in the Northeast and Midwest grew 39% and 29% respectively. 
full-time employee growth
Source: Ease 2020 SMB Benefits & Employee Insights Report

Q3: Open Communications 

Once you get to the third quarter, it’s time to connect with your clients and keep communications open until the end of the year. First, set up meetings and let them tell you about their experience during the last open enrollment period: what they would like to stay the same and what they would want to improve. It’s important to listen to your groups and let them ask you any questions they may have going into this year’s open enrollment. 

Try to answer in a clear and comprehensive manner since open enrollment issues can be confusing. This is also a great time to apply all the knowledge you acquired in Q2. Ask your groups about the shifts in the headcount and make sure you are aware of the different age groups. This information will help you when designing the benefits packages for each of your groups.

Second, improve your open enrollment marketing by establishing recurring communications and a specific way in which your groups can reach out to you for any questions. For example, create a drip-email campaign to keep reminding your groups what they need to be doing to prepare for open enrollment period and reduce stress levels at the end of the year. When Q4 gets closer, change the content to share details about open enrollment such as the start date, new offerings, or plan changes.

When creating your messages, remember that bland content could plummet the comprehension of healthcare and benefits options. If you want HR professionals to understand your offering, it’s important to craft appealing content. Write short emails that contain around 200 words and provide them with one strong call to action that clearly indicates what they have to do.

Q4: Cross the Finish Line 

Q4 is the time you’ve been preparing for all year. During this period, your tasks are reduced to quoting and open enrollment. These two processes can be time-consuming and tedious. However, if you want to have your best fourth quarter ever, look into adopting a technology solution. 45% of small businesses increased their spending in HR technology since 2015 and in the past five years, the industry has seen a 165% growth rate in the number of employees using web-based technology for benefits enrollment.

software uses for open enrollment

When open enrollment period comes around, without a technology solution, you will need to gather and deliver the necessary amount of medical, dental, and life forms, follow up with the group administrator, proof the forms, and then submit them. With a benefits administration software in place, all these steps are done in minutes. In addition, quoting with a technology solution will allow you to easily pull quotes and download custom proposals by providing basic demographic information all in the same system.

If your agency is able to provide groups with a tool that makes open enrollment period easier and, at the same time, you are able to offer more quotes without doing more work, you will be bringing greater value to your clients. Nobody wants to spend hours completing paper forms and everybody likes more options. Everyone involved in the process will save time and have a more satisfying experience.

During the fourth quarter, maintain open communication with your clients. These months are the time when they will need your help and expertise the most. Make yourself available and answer any questions your groups and their employees may have. Monitor employee’s progress and send deadline reminders to help your clients succeed.

Final Thoughts About Open Enrollment Period

If you want to have a successful open enrollment period, preparation is key. First, it’s important to have the industry knowledge to meet your clients’ expectations. Designing well-rounded, preferred benefits packages is key to retain current clients and win more business in 2020. Second, having the right tool in place to make open enrollment as easy as possible will improve your clients’ experience and satisfaction with your services. When you prepare for open enrollment year-round instead of waiting until Q3, you will better serve your groups. You’ll be able to eliminate common frustrations, confusion, and the overall feeling of rushing for three months. Follow the tips shared above and get ready to have your best fourth quarter ever.

Author: Ryan

Ryan is the VP, Marketing and Growth at Ease. Ease helps insurance brokers offer their SMB clients better service through simple technology. To date, more than 65,000 companies have enrolled in benefits with Ease.

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