Posted in Offering health benefits

How Does Open Enrollment Work?

Open enrollment is like a 10-mile marathon for folks who manage benefits. That’s because it’s the only pocket of time where anyone can sign up for a new health plan, regardless if they already have one in the bag or not. The open enrollment period for the individual market runs from November 1st to January 31st every year, but your specific timeframe may be a smidge different. Keep reading to learn how you and your team can use open enrollment to open the door to meaningful health insurance.

What do you do exactly?

First, figure out when your plan’s renewal period is. That’s the perfect time to conduct an audit of your current plan. When you figure out what is and isn’t working, you can then go ahead and calibrate so you’ll be ready for open enrollment. For example, some plans bump up their prices, change their benefits, or do something else entirely. Your employees’ needs will evolve too. Therefore, it’s a good idea to use your renewal time as a chance to adjust to all of the changes happening around you.

During your renewal period, run through the following list of questions, either on your own or with your broker. Having a discussion with your advisor and team will make any plan updates a no-brainer.

  • Has your medical, dental, and/or vision plan changed? If so, is the change positive?
  • Have your employees’ needs changed? For example, do you have more families on your team? If that’s the case, what other benefits would help them out?
  • Have your needs as a company changed? Say you’re having trouble in the hiring realm. You might want to consider stepping up your benefits package.
  • Is your team satisfied with your current offering? If you don’t know off the bat, an anonymous employee survey will help you get a sense of how people are feeling.

Once you whittle down your list of what is and isn’t working, you can work with your broker or carrier to find a better plan — or keep the one you’ve already got. This is called a renewal, and if your current plan is no longer alive and well, your carrier will propose a similar plan instead.

What happens if my employees miss open enrollment?

All’s not lost. Your employees can still sign up for health insurance during a special enrollment period, which is activated if you have a qualifying life event, also called a QLE. Adopting a child, getting hitched, and other momentous occasions are all prime examples of a QLE. Your team has a 30-day window after their QLE when they can enroll in another plan.

QLEs are broken out into three areas:

  • Updates to your place of residence, also known as moving (but only if you move to an area that results in changes to your health insurance)
  • Updates to your household, like getting married or having a child
  • Losing health insurance, like your spouse’s coverage if they change jobs, or if you turn 26 and don’t qualify for your parent’s coverage.

If any of the above has happened to your team, then they can sign up for insurance during the special enrollment period. Easy as that.

Saying open sesame to health insurance starts with open enrollment. By understanding how this crucial stage works, you’ll be able to flip out the best health plan to your team, year after year.