BenefitsPro: A 3-step Process for A Successful Open Enrollment
Brokers know that this is crunch time. With the open enrollment period fast approaching, employers – especially those with new initiatives – may require more support from their brokers than ever before.
Whether they’re tasked with migrating more employees from PPOs to CDHPs, introducing an array of voluntary benefits or communicating medical and insurance rate changes, brokers should be prepared to tailor their strategies and align services to match their employer clients’ desired enrollment outcomes. While that may sound challenging, it can be as simple as keeping to this three-step process.
Step One: Implement active employee engagement
Most employers don’t need much convincing that active engagement is an ideal approach to benefits communication and enrollment. They know, likely through experience, that by allowing their employees to passively roll over health plans year after year, they are more likely to incur added health care expenses that result from employees selecting policies that may not match their actual needs.
Take, for example, “Ben,” a sales representative for a midsized software company who has worked for his company for several years. Since being hired, Ben has been promoted twice, gotten married and is relatively healthy. That said, Ben has a lot on his plate and may not choose to dedicate his free time to researching which benefits options are best for him and his growing family.
This is where an active enrollment comes in. Proactively engaging employees like Ben on their health care options through one-on-one meetings will give employees a better understanding of which plans work best for them. In Ben’s case, for instance, a high-deductible plan with a health savings account (HSA) may be a better fit for his current situation.
Of course, active engagement can take a lot of time, and employers don’t necessarily have the internal resources needed to sit down with every single employee and walk through their options. As a result, many turn to brokers for support implementing and executing against an active engagement strategy. In alignment with growing demand from employers, a recent survey of brokers that work with large companies (i.e., that employ between 100 and 10,000 individuals), 76 percent say that they’re offering employee engagement services.
Step Two: Introduce advocacy and transparency services
There is a fair amount of confusion and stress when it comes to today’s health care system, made worse by a volatile regulatory climate, incomprehensible terminology and complex billing and payment systems. As a result, more than two-thirds of employers are asking brokers for advocacy and transparency services to help bring clarity to increasingly complex health care processes. What do these services look like in practice?
Revisiting our employee “Ben,” let’s imagine that he needs to see a specialist for a health care issue. While Ben thought he had identified and visited an in-network provider, he found he was charged for out-of-network care. In this case, if Ben’s employer had offered health care advocacy services, he would have been able to consult a knowledgeable, trained health care advocate to contest the billing issue and secure an in-network discount. In the future, Ben would also know that he is able to consult his health care advocate before receiving care, so he can guarantee his provider is in network and that both he and his insurance provider will be charged correctly.
While Ben spent a bit of time researching specialists before he made an appointment, most Americans, according to a recent Health Affairs study, spend little if any time looking into different options or providers. In fact, the survey found that just 13 percent of respondents look up quality and cost data before receiving care. Especially when price information isn’t always accessible or comprehensible to the average health care consumer, advocacy and transparency services can help make employees savvy shoppers before and long after open enrollment has closed.
Step Three: Marry these approaches into one strategy for open enrollment
This open enrollment season, keep in mind that the sum of the whole is in fact greater than the sum of the parts. By combining active engagement, advocacy and transparency into a unified approach to health care benefits, employees become smarter health care consumers, and employers have a greater chance of achieving their health care goals. Brokers who can minimize the cost of employer-sponsored health care along with the undue stress placed on HR departments during open enrollment are those who are most successful.
This three-step process will empower brokers to better serve their employer partners. And since it can be challenging to implement new service offerings, it’s crucial that brokers measure the results of their service offerings. They should consider questions such as, “Did the employer achieve its target enrollment percentage?” and “Are we seeing a growing demand for our new offerings?” Based upon this open enrollment post-mortem, brokers can create a differentiated, winning strategy for next year.
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(Bart Yancey is CEO of DirectPath.)