We are starting a new series on the blog called You Ask, We Answer.
It will feature some of the common questions our account managers answer every day. They answer a lot of questions and we thought you might be interested in some of the same answers.
Q. I have someone who wants to drop their benefits coverage. Do we have to wait for open enrollment?
A. No, they can drop coverage at any time.
Open enrollment is the window of time when your employees and their families can elect your employee benefits package or make changes to their existing coverage. During this time, employees may decide to change plans, add or drop a dependent or add an optional benefit.
Unless someone has a qualifying life event, open enrollment is the only time when people can join your plan. The DOL defines which events qualify including loss of coverage and household changes such as marriage, divorce, or birth.
However, participants can drop your benefits at any point in the year. One common reason they might drop mid-cycle is if a spouse's employer has a different benefits enrollment cycle. Maybe they upped their employer sponsored coverage and it became a good option for the spouse or possibly the whole family to change plans.
Typically employees have thirty days to complete their paperwork during the enrollment period. Those electing to opt out of medical coverage will need to sign a waiver showing that they have alternate coverage. You will also need a waiver for people dropping coverage and to send them a HIPAA letter notifying the date of their last day of coverage.
OPEN ENROLLMENT OFFERS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO FOCUS ON EMPLOYEE ENGAGMENT AND EDUCATION!
Use this period to establish a corporate culturebuilt on good communication. Communicate with employees well and often so that they understand what they need to do and when they need to do it. They also need to understand the "Five Cs" of benefit enrollment:
- Coverage information
- Changes to plans
- Comparisons to last year's plans
- Current options
We recommend that our clients have at least one employee enrollment meeting during which our advisers explain the offered benefit plans and answer any questions or concerns.
It is important to make these meetings accessible to everyone by for instance scheduling one during each shift. When possible, try including spouses in enrollment meetings as it might not be the employee alone making the healthcare decisions and having both partners there enables everyone to get the answers they need to make informed decisions.
When people understand their options everyone wins. Enrollment meetings often increase adoption of new plan designs such as a High Deductible Health Plan with a corresponding Health Savings Account. There can be a lot of resistance to change but we find that when people understand their options they are more likely to try something new and to use their plan more wisely throughout the year.
The benefits package is a big part of your total compensation package. Once your plan is in place continued good communication will help keep your employees engaged with their benefits and could have many possitive results like better employee retention rates, higher adoption of welless programs, and overall better consumer behavior relating to healthcare.
If your employees are already engaged mid-cycle and accustomed to regular communication, it will ease the process during your next open enrollment. Ensuring a successful open enrollment is a full year endeavor. How are you preparing your business and employees for the next cycle?