Sutter Health Plus News & Trends

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Tips to Help Employers Make Open Enrollment a Success

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in News, People

In this article written by Olivia Barrow published in the July 13, 2017 editions of the Sacramento Business Journal and San Francisco Business Times, Sutter Health Plus Vice President of Sales Rob Carnaroli explains the importance of helping employees understand their open enrollment options through ongoing and targeted communications.

Choosing the right health care coverage is a weighty responsibility. Even when employers offer only two or three health plan options, the serious decision to select the right coverage at open enrollment can overwhelm employees.

Since health care benefits are one of the main recruitment tools organizations use to attract top talent, it’s important to make sure employees clearly understand their options to make the right choices. Rob Carnaroli, vice president of sales for Sutter Health Plus, recommends human resources and benefits professionals make this process easier by thoroughly explaining benefit changes prior to and during the busy open enrollment period.

Keep employees in the loop on benefit changes

A few decades ago, employer-offered coverage didn’t change much from one year to the next, so it was common for employees to roll over benefit elections. Unfortunately, the days of passive, easy selection are long gone.

Today, we see more employers looking for ways to reduce the cost of health care, such as by sharing more of the costs with employees. This includes offering plan designs with higher out-of-pocket cost costs, which means employees need to carefully compare benefits and understand costs. For example, deductibles might quickly double from $500 to $1,000, or copays could rise from $10 to $30.

Employee morale can suffer if employees don’t understand plan design changes. “Incremental tweaks happen often,” says Carnaroli. “Even with just a slight increase, families need to understand out-of-pocket costs so they can budget accordingly.”

Communicate often, early, and repeatedly

Multi-generational work forces can present communication challenges for employers. Some baby boomers still prefer information about their health plan options through post cards, flyers, or posters in the workplace break room. Generation X tends to prefer email, and many millennials like the convenience of text messaging and social media.

Many employers successfully use a multi-pronged approach before, during and after open enrollment by holding in-person meetings, health fairs, webinars, and online portals or apps that centralize all of the benefit information. Carnaroli recommends distributing important open enrollment information to employees’ homes as spouses often play a major role in medical and financial decisions for the family.

Most companies should begin communication campaigns 60 to 90 days before open enrollment starts, although larger companies may need to start earlier. Companies with remote workers should also start earlier, because they don’t have the option of using in-person communication to spread the word, Carnaroli says. The industry standard for the open enrollment period is 30 days; most small to mid-size companies still hold it in November.

“It all comes down to ongoing and targeted communication. Do it often, do it early, do it repeatedly, and do it with all communication tools available,” says Carnaroli.

A successful open enrollment campaign will help employees understand any health plan changes, consider their options, and select the right plan for themselves and their family—and it’s what every broker, employer and health plan wants.