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Open Enrollment 101: Do’s and Don’ts

Make the right decision_11955127In 2015, 11.7 million Americans purchased health care during the open enrollment period through the Health Insurance Marketplace, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With so many people picking insurance policies, open enrollment is sure to be hectic for human resources departments.

Open enrollment is the time of the year when an employee can sign up for or make changes to their health insurance plan. An HR department looking to get ahead will review its work from a year ago to determine what was beneficial and what needs to be improved upon.

For departments looking for some assistance or those experiencing the open enrollment period for the first time, here are some strategies to employ and tactics to avoid during the upcoming busy time of the year.

DO: Explain to employees what the open enrollment period is
Taking action during the open enrollment period is important for people, regardless of their health and age, who want to buy health insurance or make adjustments to their current plans. The HR department can give guidance to workers who have questions and problems with their current insurance coverage.

However, not everybody is aware of what open enrollment is or why it is important to them. In the coming weeks and months before the period starts, explain to employees what it means and why they must take action. With only a brief period of the year available to make changes to a health insurance plan, it is vital all employees recognize the opportunity they have.

DON’T: Worry about printed employee handbooks
Employers are responsible notifying their workers about which benefits they are eligible for. This information is vital to workers prior to open enrollment so they are clear what a company’s insurance plan covers and what additional plans are able to be purchased. In many offices, this information is conveyed with a physical employee handbook, but Digital Insurance recommended skipping that part of the process.

Since so many employees fail to read or even open their books, some companies find printing them is a waste of time and resources. Instead, post the information on a company HR website so that is easily accessible by employees both in the office and at home. Make sure the details listed in the digital handbook are current, giving employees the knowledge they need to decide what they have to purchase during the open enrollment period.

DON’T: Overlook the special enrollment periodDO: Make it easy for employees to sign up
The open enrollment period can be a confusing time for employees, even for those who already have health insurance coverage. An HR department should be there to make life easier. Have open forums and Q&A sessions in the coming months, giving employees an opportunity to ask questions about changes to plans and what steps they need to take if they want to make adjustments to their coverage.

While the open enrollment period is the time when the majority of Americans sign up or adjust their medical insurance, there are circumstances that allow for changes to be made at other times. Those generally fit into the special enrollment period, which is something HR staffers should discuss with employees. The special enrollment period is the 60 days following life events that lead to a change in family status, such as marriage or the birth of a child, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services explained.

This may be common knowledge to those within the field of HR, but make sure the other employees in an office are aware of this important information.

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