8 Ways to Become an Open Enrollment Pro

Every year around this time, the pressure is on! Employees are asked to make important health care coverage selections during open enrollment, and these decisions are a big deal. Employees, their families and their wallets are impacted for the entire year ahead.

Open enrollment is often time-consuming and confusing for employees, but these choices can make a huge financial impact. Taking the time to carefully choose the best options will help employees better manage their finances throughout the year, alleviating stress and promoting productivity.

8 Ways to Become an Open Enrollment Pro

Below are some tips that HR and benefits professionals can share with employees to help them prepare for open enrollment season.

1. Take Your Time

Take time to really read through the enrollment materials you receive. If you are invited to a face-to-face (or most likely virtual, these days!) meeting, make time to attend it. It’s possible you’ll be offered different plan options and coverages this year, especially in response to the coronavirus pandemic (more mental health resources, expanded telehealth/telemedicine options and employee assistance programs). The better you understand the changes, the better decisions you’ll make.

2. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Think back to what happened in your life this year. How often did you and your family members need medical services? What kind? Are any treatments ongoing? Think about any life changes that could affect the benefits you need, such as a marriage or divorce, a child going off to college or a spouse changing jobs.

3. Look Ahead

Consider what the year ahead will look like for you and your family. Are you planning to have a baby? Or knee replacement surgery? A root canal? Does someone need braces? New glasses? Keep this in mind as you look at your coverage options.

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4. Dive Into the Details

Knowing what you needed last year and what you’ll need this year will help you choose the right plans and coverage levels. It’s important to note whether the plans’ provider networks have changed. Make sure your doctors are still in-network. Is your chiropractor also covered? Does the plan cover orthodontics? Is your spouse’s daily prescription drug covered, or did the coverage change? Also consider areas of need like access to specialists, mental health care, therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, and chronic care. Look at the options offered in all plans, including health, dental, vision and disability.

5. Get Out Your Calculator

Add together the amount you’ll need to pay toward your health premium plus deductibles, copayments for prescriptions and doctors’ office visits, and coinsurance for services. Understand what you’ll be asked to pay if you seek care outside your network. This will give you a clearer picture of how much you’re likely to spend. The plan that looks to be the cheapest option may not really be the cheapest for you.

6. Determine What’s Right for You

Cost and your deductible aren’t the only factors to consider. Check on the quality of the doctors and other providers in the network. And consider your comfort level with risk. If you want your family to be covered for every eventuality, a more traditional plan might be right for you. If you’re comfortable taking on some up-front costs, a high-deductible plan with a lower premium might be your plan of choice.

[Tune In: Open Enrollment Strategies in the Time of COVID-19 Talking Benefits Podcast Episode]

7. Take Advantage of Extras

Your employer may offer you the option to reduce your health premiums in exchange for your participation in a wellness program or health risk assessment. They may match some or all of the money you save in your 401(k) plan. They might let you set aside tax-deferred money into a health savings account or flexible spending account. The International Foundation Employee Benefits Survey found that 85% of organizations offer at least one type of voluntary benefit. Check with your employer to see whether they offer voluntary insurance like critical illness, pet, auto and homeowners. They may even offer a group discount and payroll deduction—If these options work for your situation, sign up.

8. Ask Questions

Don’t be shy about asking your HR or benefits department to explain something if you’re not sure. They’re there to help and want you to make the best decisions for your situation.

Data from the just-released report, Trends in Benefit Open Enrollment and Communication, found that most organizations (70%) anticipate that the cost of health benefits for average plan participants will increase ins 2021 compared to 2020—another reason to be savvy with decision-making during open enrollment.

Learn More About Open Enrollment Communication

The new report, Trends in Benefit Open Enrollment and Communication, provides a look at how benefit plans are handling communication related specifically to open enrollment, best practices for year-round benefit communication, and how organizations are adjusting their communication efforts due to COVID-19. International foundation members can download the full report at no cost!

[Related Reading: Open Enrollment 2020: Employers Explore New Ways to Communicate Benefits]

Anne Patterson
Social Marketing and Communications Strategist at the International Foundation

The latest from Word on Benefits:

Anne Patterson

Social Marketing and Communications Strategist at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation Product: The innovative member survey efforts and results from the research team.

Benefits-Telated Topics That Interest Her Most: Health care, nontraditional wellness initiatives, employee benefit communication.

Personal Insight: It’s all about balance with Anne. She loves to run and enjoys a good culinary adventure. She’ll jump at the chance to travel or to spend fun times with family and friends, but she’ll also take time to catch her breath with an occasional Netflix binge or diving into a classic novel.

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