Open Enrollment Trends for 2020: Ease’s Q4 Preparedness Report

woman with a mug and computer depicting Q4 preparedness report

Do you have a plan in place to proactively support your clients this open enrollment season amidst a global pandemic? In an instant, COVID-19 upended our sense of normalcy, including the way we live and do business. As you prepare for an open enrollment season unlike anything you’ve seen before, one thing is clear: now is the time to be prepared. Ease partnered with general agents and health insurance carriers to survey nearly 600 brokers, account managers, and agency owners and discovered several open enrollment trends for 2020. 

Through the 2020 Fourth Quarter Preparedness Report, we learned how the pandemic has changed the way insurance agencies think about investing in technology, as well as how the pandemic has affected business over the course of the last several months. In this week’s Broker Tool Belt, we share the highlights to help you prepare for the upcoming open enrollment and better serve your clients.

1. The Pandemic Has Shifted Expectations Around Ben Admin Software

In the current climate, the needs and priorities of our world have changed, including those of your clients’. During the 2020 renewal season, continuing with the status quo won’t be an option, and refusing to adapt will be a failure in and of itself. 

Of the brokers that pitched ben admin software when going after new Broker of Records (BORs), 67% shared that they had won new clients in the last four months. Inversely, of the brokers that did not include ben admin tech in their pitch, only 45% won new clients in the same timeframe.

Open enrollment trends also include data showing that those brokers who included ben admin tech as part of their offerings disproportionately won more business than their counterparts who did not. On average, those who did not include ben admin tech won a total of 2.3 new BORs over a four-month period, while those who did include it won an average of 4.2 BORs—83% more business.

broker with ben admin tech win new BORs
Source: Ease’s 2020 Fourth Quarter Preparedness Report

An interesting unifier emerged from the brokers who had acquired new business over the last four months. Regardless of whether or not they pitched ben admin tech as part of their offerings, 79% of brokers believed that superior customer service was the deciding factor in acquiring these new clients, with the second most important factor being their ability to conduct business digitally and have enrollment meetings online. 

2. Post-Pandemic Technology Needs Agency Use

There is risk for agencies who rely on Dropbox or Google Drive for sharing PII or PHI this open enrollment season. While they have the ability to be HIPAA compliant, they require configuration to do so. For example, for Google Drive to be HIPAA compliant, you must first digitally sign a BAA with Google. With benefit administration software like Ease, you can store and share documents securely, without any additional work or configuration.

Open enrollment trends show 99% of agency account managers think that technology will play an important role for them and their groups during this year’s OE; however, only 56% of agency account managers said that they are extremely confident that they have the necessary tools and software to support serving their clients digitally during this year’s OE season.

importance of technology this open enrollment
Source: Ease’s 2020 Fourth Quarter Preparedness Report

Agency owners agree with account managers, with 99% indicating that they think technology will play an important role for them and their groups during this year’s OE; however, only 39% shared that they feel extremely confident that they have the necessary tools and software to support servicing their clients digitally during OE. Not surprisingly, 78% of agency owners who have not already brought their groups online are interested in adopting a ben admin software for groups from 2-250 employees in support of this year’s OE.

technology as open enrollment trend in 2020
Source: Ease’s 2020 Fourth Quarter Preparedness Report

3. COVID-19’s Impact on Benefit Plans, Renewal Trends, and Staffing Plans

The #1 concern for agency owners about the current climate is the challenge of winning new business (31%), followed closely by their current groups laying off staff (26%). The fear around lost revenue due to clients going under is supported by the fact that 38% of agency owners shared that they had lost revenue due to clients going out of business during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, of the agency account managers who use Ease, only 20% shared that they had lost revenue due to clients going under over the last four months. Open enrollment trends show that 83% of agency account managers said their groups were more eager to use ben admin technology following events of the COVID-19 pandemic.

percentage of changes in different service this open enrollment season
Source: Ease’s 2020 Fourth Quarter Preparedness Report

4. How to Prepare for This Upcoming Open Enrollment Season

We asked respondents how much of the traditional open enrollment activities, such as conducting enrollment meetings, distributing enrollment materials, and helping clients’ employees make their benefit selections, they plan to conduct online, rather than in person this open enrollment season. While the majority anticipated a significant shift to moving activities online, open enrollment trends show that 16% still thought less than half of their activities would go digital.

In looking ahead to open enrollment, 76% of brokers and 83% of agency account managers believe that it is likely they will have to conduct an entirely remote enrollment for at least one of their groups in the upcoming open enrollment season.

percentage of traditional open enrollment activities that will be online
Source: Ease’s 2020 Fourth Quarter Preparedness Report

Final Thoughts About Open Enrollment Trends for 2020

Are you equipped to define your next normal and help your clients succeed during the open enrollment season this year? The only way to keep providing your clients with superior service is by offering a paperless open enrollment. With so much at risk, this moment is not to be lost: agencies who are able to step up their game will be prepared to confront the challenges—and opportunities—of what lies ahead. Download the full report now and discover more national data, open enrollment trends, and insights to start designing a strategy and setting the direction for the 2020 renewal season.

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