Every year, open enrollment for small businesses offers employees and employers the chance to review, update, or change their health insurance coverage. At first, navigating this essential process can prove rather complex for small businesses, but with the right strategies, tools, and proactive groundwork, it can be a seamless and mutually beneficial experience for all parties involved.
Understanding Open Enrollment
Open enrollment, also called “OE,” is an annually recurring period during which employees can enroll in or change their current health insurance plans. This period typically occurs once a year in the fall, with a window spanning just a few short weeks; OE is designed to allow individuals to review their current coverage, assess their needs, and make informed choices and changes to their plans going forward.
For small business owners and employers, especially those with self-funded insurance plans, open enrollment periods are crucial for evaluating their current plan performance by analyzing the bulk of their workplace’s claims data, utilization patterns, and overall plan effectiveness over the past year.
How to Navigate Open Enrollment for Small Businesses
As you and your staff prepare to make adjustments to your plan design, costs, and benefits during open enrollment, consider the following steps and strategies as you move through the process. Having a comprehensive guide to open enrollment for small businesses can help all parties involved make the most of this brief and essential window.
Plan and Prepare
To ensure a smooth open enrollment process for your small business it’s crucial to plan well in advance so that you and your employees have ample time to prepare for the relatively short window in which open enrollment for small businesses occurs. Business owners and their employees will want to scrutinize their current health insurance plans and, assess their cost-effectiveness, degree of coverage, and gauge overall satisfaction levels—or lack thereof.
Small business owners are responsible for determining when the open enrollment period commences, often choosing to follow the national norm of November to December. However, they can always adjust the exact time frame as best befits their business needs. After cementing the dates, communicate the parameters of open enrollment with all of your employees by sending out notifications, hosting informational sessions, and providing resources to help them better understand the process as a whole.
Engage Your Employees in the Process
While some insurance plans seem exceptionally valuable on paper, the demographics of every workplace vary widely, leading some employees to perceive certain benefits as more valuable than others. Listening to what your employees say before and during open enrollment periods will help you get a more accurate gauge of what they like and dislike about their current insurance plans, alongside what they hope to attain in the future.
Because small businesses typically have fewer employees and more robust interpersonal dynamics, holding roundtable discussions and feedback sessions are simple ways to help employees voice their unique needs and feel more empowered moving through this process.
Assess Your Budget
As a small business owner, you must decide what percentage of your resources are available for your employees’ healthcare benefits. Budgeting appropriately during open enrollment is crucial — especially for employers with self-funded insurance who will use this period to evaluate (and re-evaluate) their plan design.
Effective cost management includes setting or renegotiating employee premium contributions, deductible levels, out-of-pocket maximums, and other cost-sharing arrangements as needed. Consider your company’s financial health, the number of individuals you employ, and any present government tax incentives you may benefit from.
Offer a Variety of Plans
Small businesses should always strive to offer a range of health insurance plan options to accommodate the diverse needs of their employees. Whether you decide to offer health maintenance organization plans (HMOs), preferred provider organization plans (PPOs), high deductible health plans (HDHPs), or high-performance network plans (HPNs), you’ll need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these options as they pertain to the needs of your small business. You’ll also need to consider cost-sharing, employee contributions, coverage, and network options.
Remember that offering your employees choices is always an empowering experience, but inundating them with too many options will likely feel overwhelming and cause unfortunate decision fatigue. Moreover, generating scores of plans and proposals to offer employees can be a daunting tax on your valuable time and resources.
Luckily, Health In Tech’s eDIYBS underwriting platform is designed to create personalized, bindable quotes and proposals in mere minutes. Our eDIYBS software is user-friendly, streamlined, and flexible, allowing clients almost complete control over their plans; it is also beneficial for small businesses because low requirement numbers mean that only 9% of members are required to complete IHQ, and only five eligible employees are needed to enroll.
Compare Different Providers
An essential part of open enrollment will be carefully outlining the comparative benefits of different insurance providers. You’ll want to highlight aspects such as network size, customer service support systems, and cost and coverage.
Ensure that your provider has an extensive network of doctors and hospitals that allow your employees access to a broad range of healthcare services at convenient locations. For example, Health In Tech’s HI Performance Network provides cost-efficient and high-quality care centered around improving patient outcomes. This curated network of service providers includes 4,727 hospitals spanning all 50 states, making it an excellent choice for small businesses nationwide.
Manage Compliance With Regulations
Small business owners must know the legal requirements and regulations governing employee benefits, especially those governing employee health insurance. This may include managing compliance with regulations such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which governs employees’ out-of-pocket maximums, or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which implements standards for specific retirement plans. Because federal and state regulations can change yearly, ensure your plan offerings are current.
Offer Ancillary Benefits
Open enrollment for small businesses is an excellent opportunity to explore whether offering ancillary benefits to employees would help their health and wellness thrive more holistically. Health In Tech’s new ancillary benefit offerings include critical illness, accident, dental, and vision coverage, among others. These voluntary benefits allow employees to customize their coverage cost-effectively for the business.
Seek Professional Guidance
Even with the most comprehensive strategies and tools at your disposal, navigating the complexities of open enrollment is still challenging and subject to change and nuance. Consider learning how to partner with trusted health insurance companies or working with an insurance broker, consultant, or third-party administrator (TPA) who can provide expert guidance tailored to your small business’s unique needs.
Navigating Open Enrollment with Health In Tech
Here at Health In Tech, we want to make open enrollment for small businesses more streamlined and accessible than ever before. Our industry-leading solutions will help you and your employees make transparent, cost-effective healthcare decisions that holistically benefit your business for years to come. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help you easily navigate the landscape of open enrollment.